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Gemini Rising

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The Adepts remain a complete mystery. We have no idea how or why they are even here. Three centuries of intense study, genome mapping, and no anatomical or biological explanation has emerged. They aren’t bred. They just simply appear. What we do know is that at our time of greatest need, for whatever reason, more and more children manifested psionic abilities. We have more Adepts now than ever before, by a factor of at least ten. And after twenty-four years of war, they are still our best defense against the silicates.

Interview with Justicar Psionica Jeffrey Morgan as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3155 AT




The sharp clacking of his heels on polished floors echoed in the vast, empty hall. Through the outside wall of windows, arcing fifty meters overhead to meet the interior wall, the forest dappled the cold plastinium pillars and granite floors in shifting ripples of shadow and golden sun. The immense scale of the Academy still fell under the canopy of the giant firs of the primal forest of northern Lyrea. 

After twelve years at the Academy, Jensen no longer even noticed the grandeur of the structure and its surroundings. Right now, he was late for Psi History, and could really care less. The tendrils of the dream that plagued his slumber for the past two weeks still clouding his mind. He woke up late, confused, and disoriented with a hollow ache in his chest that he could not explain. The flashes of imagery from the dream made no sense to his waking consciousness, but that didn’t prevent it disrupting his life.

He vividly remembered the day he first came to the Academy : young, terrified, and claustrophobic from the dense woods surrounding him. The vast windswept plains of Therta Prime left behind with all he had known. The recruiter led him through the impossibly massive campus to the receiving area. He was examined for any physical issues, then handed his utilities, the standard black uniform of Academy Adepts. The square-shouldered waist-jacket, banded collar, pockets on the sleeves and breast. The loose-fitting pants with pockets front, back, and down the legs. The snug, moisture absorbing crew-neck t-shirt, and rugged, black boots. The smart-material of the pants and jacket adjusted density and fit to meet virtually any need. In scorching heat to freezing cold, Jensen’s uniform never changed. He still wore the same set of utilities handed to him all those years ago. Even his clothing hadn’t changed. 

At his neck, just bellow the royal blue strip of the kinetics atop his collar, sat the platinum insignia of the Decurion. At least that had changed. He recalled the pride he felt when his recruiter pinned the Tirones insignia on his collar. He had risen through the ranks, through the classes, to finally achieve Decurion First-Class. He could rise no further until he received his commission. 

The Academy had given him all it could offer, he thought to himself. 

He felt the gentle vibration on his wrist, alerting him to a new message: “Get here!” Michael obviously had some kind of prank about to unfold. That, at least, certainly would not be boring. He picked up his pace, passing closed door after closed door, the student body of the Academy shut away in their classrooms. Without looking, he could describe every classroom in detail. The Academy held no mysteries for him any longer.

One door silently slid open, its locking mechanism triggered by his biometrics, as if to say , “you should be in here.”

“Decurion Ackles,” Professor Lasryn’s dull, even voice called out. “So kind of you to join us.”

Jensen pasted on his most winning smile as he fell into a seat beside Michael near the top of the auditorium. “Wouldn’t miss it for anything, Professor.” 

A faint murmuring chuckle spread through the room. The Professor turned, dropped his gaze back to his notes, missing Erica swatting the back of Jensen’s head. He turned back to glare at the brunette. She made kissy faces at him, so he sneered in return and swiveled back to face front. 

“Your tardiness must indicate your familiarity with the material,” Lasryn droned. “Enlighten us as to the trigger event that lead to Deletrois’ crusade.”

In a clear, confident voice, Jensen began speaking , “The McGeilght family  - husband, wife, their two children, both girls  - were murdered by a mob on Yser in 2764. The mob, lead by self-styled Arch Bishop Evan Galloway, burned their home, locking them all inside the house, to purge their community of the children they believed to be inhabited by evil with supernatural powers. Twelve other men, women and children were killed attempting to rescue their friends from the burning house. Afterward, Galloway and his associates were tried for inciting to riot and sixteen counts of premeditated murder. They were convicted and executed, the last time capital punishment was used in the Republic.

“Scientists theorize that Seasonal Affective Disorder led to the psychotic break of the populace, claiming the Yserians had not adapted to living underground, and mandatory diet supplementation to counter SAD effects had yet to be implemented. Yserians discount this theory as they had lived in the caves away from the violent surface storms for two thousand years. Further proof against the SAD theory, pockets of religious zealotry were confirmed on four other worlds, and unconfirmed on all planets of the Republic. Little is known about the sects as they were either wiped out or forced so far underground that they effectively disappeared. 

“Seven other incidents of anti-Adept crime occurred within months of the Yserian Massacre, but no lives were lost. Deletrois, at this time Commander of Interplanetary Affairs, was dispatched to each of the worlds. Later identified as a sensing empath himself, Deletrois felt acutely the persecution of the unique individuals in each situation. In his memoirs, he accredited this time spent with those attacked and their attackers as being the moment he conceived of the Ministry of Adepts and specifically the Academy.

“He also admitted in his memoirs that he used the collective horror of the Republic at the violence perpetrated against the newly named ‘Adepts’ as political collateral to establish the Ministry. He presented it as a more palatable alternative to the paranoia and anger that built up against the ‘Brotherhood of the Terran Soul’ as they had come to be called. Though Calloway was dead and the order fell out of favor, some maintain that the Brotherhood exists even now, 400 years later.” 

The silence in the room was palpable. Lasryn paused, a small smile on his face. “Do you believe the Brotherhood still exists, Decurion Ackles?”

“What I believe is immaterial. The reports, however apocryphal, exist.”

“Decurion, what you believe or don’t believe is always important,” the professor replied cryptically. He turned to the lectern and the holoplay of Kolran Deletrois’ impassioned speech on behalf of psionics throughout the Republic played for a few moments then switched to a very energetically pornographic display between three men, two women, and someone in a horrifically bad dinosaur costume. 

As the moans and grunts and occasional dinosaur “roar” filled the room, Jensen’s bright green eyes never left the face of Professor Lasryn. A few startled gasps, followed by uproarious laughter reverberated through the auditorium, and he watched as Lasryn’s unflappable control disintegrated. The man furiously slapped at the controls of the holoprojector, and nothing seemed able to shut off the display. Jensen’s gaze swept around his fellow Adepts, finally resting on a group near the front.

By unspoken rule, Kinetics never associated with Medics. Empaths floated between the social castes, but most cliques formed hard and fast and didn’t change. Jensen couldn’t take his eyes off a group at the front, one Adept in particular. Broad shoulders shook with laughter, almost looking like sobs, and the chestnut-colored head bent forward, face resting in his hands. The long brown hair curled at his neck and exposed the red banded collar of the Medikinetics. He had seen this boy before. Pada-something. A tall, dark-haired empath leaned over and whispered something to the focus of Jensen’s attention, and the bowed head just shook back and forth. 

He frowned at the interplay, racking his brain for any moment in the past ten years that he had spoken to this young medic. As far as he could remember, they had never spoken, never interacted in any way. Tingling at the back of his mind, elusive and out of reach, he swore he knew this guy. The phantom feeling of intense familiarity danced around the fringe of his consciousness, never close enough to make out any details, but insistent enough to annoy him. 

Michael slapped Jensen on the back, snapping him out of his thoughts. “You almost missed this, man!” He was exceedingly pleased with his exploits.

Jensen looked at his friend, smirking. “Mike, where in the hell did you find dinosaur porn?” he asked, eyes widening when he realized what he said. “No! No, I don’t want an answer to that.” Michael just laughed harder.

Erica bent forward, her head coming between the two troublemakers. “You boys booking for caf duty?” she asked, her eyebrow raised with brown eyes twinkling in amusement. “Dishpan hands will look great on both of you.”

Michael looked back at her. “Like anyone can pin this on me. I’m a professional, little girl.” Erica just shook her head and reclined back into her seat. 

The anatomically questionable display continued across the classroom’s holoprojector, the chaotic noise in the room unabated. Finally, the professor reached under the pedestal and ripped the power cable out of socket. The students settled down, now quietly chuckling at the man’s undeniable discomfort. Lasryn, obviously relieved to have the projector off, suddenly found himself at a loss as to how to proceed with his class. The confused look in his eyes faded to a hard edge as he took in the snickering mass of students before him.

“As the equipment has malfunctioned,” Lasryn's eyes narrowed further as more students laughed. “Since we cannot continue with the lesson, each of you will need to turn in 2,000 words on Deletrois appeal to the Senate for funding of the Academy and the political forces for and against his proposal. I also want you to include detailed discussion why the pro side won. This is due at the beginning of our next class. Dismissed.”

Loud groans replaced the laughter, and even Mike’s smirk dimmed. Most of the students already began shuffling out the now opened door, but Jensen sat motionless, watching the chestnut head, and the small group of medics. Maybe it was his pronounced ennui, maybe he was just feeling rebellious, but it suddenly bothered him that he could not remember having ever spoken to a medic in his long tenure at the Academy. The strange and strong pull he felt to the one young man in particular confused and frustrated him.

Erica hovered behind him, exchanging puzzled looks with Mike as to why their friend, usually the first one sprinting out the door , hadn’t moved. 

“Come on, grandpa,” Mike teased him. “We have an extended lunch break. Unless, of course, you want to get a head start on that paper?”

A beat later, Jensen appeared to break out of his stupor, and flashed a scowl at his friend. “Yeah,” he quietly replied. “Let’s go.”

Erica looked concernedly at the tall, sandy-headed man as he rose from his seat and walked slowly out of the room. Something was far from right here, but she had no idea what.



Tom’s laugh seemed to fill the hall, and Jared couldn’t help but smile in return. 

“It had a dinosaur in it,” the tall empath enthused, draping a long arm across the other man’s shoulders. “Who in the hell even makes porn with dinosaurs in it?”

Jared kept his hands pushed deeply in the front pockets of his pants, but nudged his friend with his shoulder, grin still in place. Even Chris’ normally stony expression reflected amusement. 

As if remembering his normally dour disposition, he reminded his friends of the essay the prank has cost them. 

Tom continued to smile brightly. “Totally worth it , man, that’s a legendary prank right there. Rosenbaum outdid himself on this one.”

“You think Rosenbaum was behind this?” Jared asked.

“Yeah, this is totally his style,” Tom replied. “Though, with Ackles coming in so late, I wonder if he didn’t have a hand in it.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Chris grumbled. “If there’s trouble, those two are usually in the center of it. And speak of the devil.”

Jared looked to where the Yserian pointed. He could make out Jensen Ackles’ sandy-blond hair, Rosenbaum’s short buzzcut and Erica Durance, her long brown hair cascading down her shoulders. Behind them, he saw the matching porcelain dolls, the Takamura twins. He shuddered.

Tom’s arm over his shoulder tightened slightly, and he chuckled softly. “They’re just human, you know,” his voice pitched so that only the small group could hear it. “Just a brother and a sister, dude.”

Jared shrugged, ducking his head down. “I know, but they are just so, eerie,” he quietly answered. “I mean it's like they share one brain, same gestures at the same time, finishing each other’s sentences. I bet they giggle at each other when they kill someone.”

Even Chris laughed loudly at that. “Jared, they have never killed anyone.”

“As far as you know,” Jared chuckled at his own over-active imagination, cutting his eyes over to the group surrounding Jensen, to find the tall kinetic’s bright green eyes focused on him. 

Everyone at Academy knew of Jensen Ackles. The young man was the youngest psionic to be scouted in a century. At the age of ten, he was clearly a high level four, and had grown to a high level five, arguably the post powerful macrokinetic in the Ministry. His golden brown hair, emerald green eyes, and chiseled features only added to his mystique. Tall, proud, and beautiful with more than a slight taste for trouble, Jensen was a legend here.

The kinetic fixed his gaze on the young medic. Jared couldn’t look away, even though he dearly wanted to. Flashes of long forgotten images, the watercolor memories of his childhood, textures, sounds and smells of summer grass, the blanket tent he played under in his room, they whirled in his mind and in all of them, jade eyes, lit up with mirth and fondness. Jared wanted to look away, sever whatever was doing this to him, but he couldn’t. 

Sensing his discomfort, Tom jostled the slightly taller man, continuing their walk down the corridor, and away from the other group of Adepts. He noticed the tall Adept’s furtive glances between himself and Ackles. 

“Tom?” he asked quietly. “Could you tell what he was feeling just then?”

Tom shot a bemused look at his friend, and then quickly looked off. “Uhm, no, man, I really wasn’t paying attention.” It was unusual for Jared to ask him to read people, and even more so for Tom to lie to him.



“Do you know any medics?” Jensen tried to ask casually over the swill the Academy cafeteria passed off as food.

“There’s that sexy MedTech in the infirmary, Mishel or something. Why? You sick?” Michael murmured around a mouth full of mashed something. 

“No, man, I’m not sick. I’m asking if you know any medics , like, personally?” Jensen pinned him with a glare. Nazomi and Raidon tilted their heads, looking confusedly at him like he asked the question in ancient Portuguese. Erica merely looked concerned, her default expression since that morning.

“You sure you aren’t sick?” Michael asked him. 

Jensen sighed at the younger man. “Have you even talked to a medic since you’ve been here?”

Michael dropped his fork. “We don’t talk to bandaids. You know that. Throwers hang with throwers. Bandaids with bandaids. Feelers just do whatever it is they do. You know this.”

“Yeah, I know it.” Jensen’s reply was clipped, almost angry. He threw down his fork and left the table without another word. He felt Erica’s gaze heavy between his shoulder blades. However, someone else watched his exit. He felt it, but didn’t turn to see chocolate-colored hair and hazel blue eyes watching him go.



Nestled in the spaces between the three concentric circles of the classroom core, lush strips of forest and grass rested park-like, surrounded by the giant, ribbed glastinium walls of the building. In ancient times, these oases were called “quads,” because of their “quadrangle” shapes. Though the Academy’s “quads” were shaped in giant arcs, students had called them such for as long as they had studied here. 

Glastinium halls, forming eight diameters of the giant rings, divided the core into octants, each a “hall” devoted to one of the eight foundational disciplines of the Academy. Through the course of a day, Adepts could be found, weather permitting, in all sixteen of the quads, sprawled out studying, napping, listening to music, or any other activity that benefited from quiet, sunlight, giant fir trees and lush grass. 

Jared reclined against one of those giant trees in the Human Sciences Outer Quad, the cool autumn breeze washing over him, rustling the pages of his book. Few of his peers appreciated the ancient medium, favoring the thin display scrolls found throughout the Academy. He preferred the weight, the texture, the substance of a thick, bound volume.

He felt Alona drop down beside him, the slightest sensation of warmth down his right arm. 

“It’s cute when you go all primitive,” she teased. They both chuckled, but Jared never looked up from the pages in front of him. “Where’s Tom?” she asked.

“Drills, I guess.”

“And you don’t have drills?”

“Only two casualties in the infirmary,” he answered. “We patched them up and were free for the period.”

Alona sighed, and leaned over, resting her head on Jared’s broad shoulder. He fondly looked over at his friend, her long blonde hair gently swaying in the breeze. She was a lovely girl, with warm brown eyes and caramel colored skin. A sensing empath, unlike Tom who could project as well as sense, she frequently sought out the young healer, sensing his moods, offering comfort where she could.

Perhaps it was just the stark contrast with the tall empath, his boisterousness and overwhelming personality, but Jared always struck her as overly quiet. She didn’t sense depression in him, just reservedness. What bothered her, however, was his frequent need to disappear, to skirt away from almost all attention. He was quiet, and thoughtful, and lovely. He held a very special place in her heart. 

His eyes could only be described as stunning. A kaleidoscope of blues and browns and greens and golds. His chestnut colored hair and olive skin made him appear even younger than his twenty-one years. With oddly beautiful features, broad shoulders and narrow waist, it all added up to a young man that had no end of admirers, and potential mates. However, Jared seemed oblivious. Long ago, Alona dealt with her attraction to him, and now viewed him as a brother. She loved him fiercely and, though he would never display the same fiery devotion as she did, she knew he loved her, too.

She felt him place a gentle kiss on the top of her head. She smiled and snuggled in closer. It often struck her how perfectly matched his talent was to his disposition. Kind and thoughtful and generous, he made the perfect medic. Some felt he was the most powerful medic the Ministry had ever seen. The contrast between him and Chris amused her greatly. Chris’ explosive temper and standoffish attitude seemed utterly at odds with his healing gift. More than once, his friends commented that at least after he broke a bone in a fight he could heal it.

Of the tight knit core of friends in her life, the most puzzling had to be Tom. At a full two meters tall, he stood out in a crowd. Add to that his quick laugh and his even quicker brilliant, wide smile, he exuded good humor and bonhomie. Often, his innocent-seeming personality belied his piercing intelligence and the fact that he was probably the most powerful empath in the Republic. He could project and sense with equal power. Alona came to understand that his sweet persona, while a reflection of an aspect of himself, never conveyed the whole picture. Tom played his cards close to his chest, blocking almost all of his emotions from other empaths with such effectiveness that hardly anyone ever knew what he really felt.

When she ran into him in the corridor outside the drill arena, she instantly sensed something off with the tall man. The fact that some emotion escaped his guard startled her. She could not get a good read on what exactly bothered him, but she knew enough to guess that Jared was involved. In her experience, the only times Tom's guard proved less than completely effective Jared figured into it somehow. So she set off to find the young man, and found him precisely where she expected.

Pressed up warm and calm beside her, she sensed nothing at odds within her friend. Perhaps a mild undercurrent of something troubling, but certainly nothing strong enough to explain Tom’s lapse of control. She sometimes wondered if he was in love with Jared, but nothing as strong as that emotion ever permeated his barriers. At most, she sensed great fondness from him toward the shorter man. She contented herself to not know. Jared was intensely lovable. She could certainly understand that.

She closed her eyes, felt her breath grow more shallow. She waited here with Jared until the others came out to find them.  


Chapter Text

Deletrois built the Ministry largely on descriptions of individuals with extraordinary abilities in ancient texts. When he began the process of recruiting Adepts, scouts were given descriptions that in many cases were verbatim from texts dating thousands of years old. We learned more about the psionic talents, obviously, and categorized them thusly. The development of the Ostigo scale came shortly after. What it basically boils down to is that Adepts have been among us for a very long time. However, the surge in their numbers, and the presence of level five psionics is, as far as we can tell, unprecedented. I think we can safely say level fives are a new development. It’s unlikely any individual of such immense power could have lived in ancient times and escaped the notice of historians. 

-- Transcript of Interview with Optia Samantha Ferris, Mistress of Disciplines, at the Psionic Ministry of Adepts Academy, as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3155 AT.


Nazomi and Raidon moved silently in front of Jensen into the arena. The twins fascinated him. Their almost identical features of black almond eyes and black hair, cut to chin length on both. Raidon stood ever so slightly taller than his sister, his build more masculine, but still almost delicate. While not as powerful a macrokinetic as Jensen, he was clever and fast, a valuable ally. Nazomi fell into the category of microkinetic. So far, she had manifested an ability to control electricity, but no other subatomic forces. Together, the Takamura twins were a force to be reckoned with. 

Though the pair were considerably shorter than most Adepts, once they cleared the doors into the arena, their presence rolled forward from them, like a wave. Jensen smiled at the stir they caused. Whatever else may be said of them, they had definite style. 

The upperclassmen arena took up nearly a third of the first floor outer ring of the Kinetic Training Octant. Large blast doors, twenty meters tall and a meter thick marked the entrances at either end. Inside, thick padding lined the walls, the flooring a slightly thinner but firmer, more durable pad. A tread pattern marked the entire surface. The dark gray of the pads made the large space seem smaller, even though the ceiling glowed with strong ambient light. Adepts immediately broke up into predefined groups: microkinetics grouped by their specializations, macrokinetics grouped by rank and level. 

They would vie against others in their initial group, then move around the room. Weaker kinetics had to find new ways to defeat stronger ones, and stronger kinetics had to finely control their abilities to keep from injuring their lower level classmates. The first rule ingrained into the kinetics when they reached the Academy was to never harm their opponent during drills. To injure another Adept carried a stigma, designed and vigorously reinforced by the faculty, of an individual with poor self-control and a weak mind. In the Academy Psionica, this dishonor ranked with cheating.

Jensen had done this two days a week for twelve years. In his fourth year, he graduated to upperclassman, so the venue had changed, but the only difference was the size of the arena. Everything else - the faces, the groups and the exercises - became rote years ago. The numbness that had become too familiar in recent days descended on his mind. Without his bidding, his thoughts turned to the medic he had fixated on earlier in the day. 

He could not understand the pull the young man had on him. Obviously, he was attractive to the point of being beautiful, but Jensen did not feel the pull of lust. It bothered him that he could not chalk it up to sex. That was something easily dealt with, an itch scratched and forgotten. 

His thoughts continued down this track, trying to pick apart why he felt drawn to the other man. His mind whirled around possible explanations, to the point he did not realize that he had squared up to his opponent, and the drill began in moments. At that instant, he pulled himself out of his reverie to see the sneering face of Gryon. He couldn’t remember the guy’s first name, nor did he care to. He knew him as a spoiled rich brat, whose sense of self-entitlement followed him around like a toxic cloud.

Jensen was not fast enough to fully block the first attack, and he landed on his back on the mat. Within one heartbeat, he exiled his emotions and confused thoughts from his mind, found his core, that place from where his power emanated, where his senses heightened. He felt the power coarse through him. He blasted against the mat with a surge of power, vaulting himself into the air. He rode the inertia in a graceful arc, soaring some twenty meters above the arena floor, noticing that Gryon’s foot had come down on the mat where his head had been not a second before.

The sounds of foul klaxons and instructors shouting reprimands at Gryon dissolved into static. Jensen somersaulted and twisted midair, landing gracefully behind his confused opponent. Before the other man could fully register what happened, Jensen unleashed his abilities. 

Instantly frozen in place, Gryon could not move, a look of terror on his face. Jensen spun him around like a top to face him. Gryon had some idea of the danger he placed himself in, but Erica had seen that look in Jensen’s eyes before.

The alarms and shouting had halted all other activity in the room, and several hundred Adepts focused on the match that had caused the disturbance. Erica watched in horror as it unfolded. Even at his angriest, Jensen’s green eyes held some kind of fire, but right now, they were empty and cold. She knew that when he went to this place, if he turned fully over to it, he acted first and thought of consequences later. It chilled her to the bone to watch her friend transform into some sort of machine. She thought bitterly to herself that the Ministry would be so pleased. 

Erica called out to him, and his eyes cut to her just as Gryon spun through the air, pinwheeling toward the wall. She saw a flash of recognition in her friend's eyes, and Gryon hit the padded wall with far less impact than he would have a split-second before.  Her jaw dropped as the idiot jumped to his feet, shook his head, and charged at Jensen. Before she could call out to warn her friend, Gryon shouted out in pain. Mid-stride, his femur snapped cleanly in two, and he crumpled to the mat. 

Two medics rushed to him, immediately setting the bone and began the healing process. The instructors worked to restore order and focus to restart the drill. As he watched the healers restoring Gryon’s leg, the activity triggered something, somewhere in the back of Jensen’s mind. Before he could divine out the cause, a deep voice called his name. He looked over to the source, and found Justicar Jeffrey Morgan watching him. He stood at attention, saluted the high-commander of all Adepts, and walked quickly to him. Erica watched with concern as the two men exited the arena.

The Justicar remained silent until they were well out of earshot of the arena. “That display was impressive.” His deep, rich voice vibrated off the transparent outer wall. 

Jensen merely nodded in response. 

“Would you care to explain why you chose to break Milis Gryon’s leg?”

“Sir, my opponent had lost rationality and therefore control. Had he continued to engage me though the match had concluded, the odds of him being seriously injured would have been high,” Jensen answered in cold, detached tones. “A clean break to his femur would ensure he did nothing stupid, and could be easily mended.” 

He felt the Justicar’s gaze heavy on him.

“And what of his pain?”

“Perhaps the pain will teach him control.”

“Your third maneuver, why did you mitigate the force of the throw?”

“It would have killed him, sir.”

“Then why did you use such force to begin with?”

“Forgive me, sir. I failed to see him as another Adept, and only saw him as Adversary. A failing on my part. I have never had to respond to such a vicious assault before. I operated off instinct. I will work to not fail the same way again.”

They continued to walk for several minutes and the Justicar said nothing. The long journey from the arena, through the length of the core and finally outside, was made in silence. As they rounded the corner to the administrative offices, Morgan finally spoke.

“You have applied for early appointment.”

“Yes, sir. I have been at Academy for 12 years. I feel it is time to take my place in the ranks on the front.”

Jensen sensed the older man scrutinizing him. He said nothing further until they were inside the Justicar’s office. He gestured to a chair, a silent command for the Adept to sit, as he took his seat behind the massive wooden desk.

Jensen locked eyes with him, refusing to look away, to back down. Morgan steepled his fingers in front of him.

“Jensen,” he began. The use of his given name startled the young man. “You have not yet grasped that it's just a number.”

The Adept knew immediately to what his superior referred. He felt stripped bare, utterly exposed.

“The Ostigo Scale was never intended to set up a pecking order and it sure as hell was never meant to form the basis of an identity.” The firmness of Morgan’s voice brooked no argument, but was gentle as well.

After a long pause, the older man sighed. “Do you understand that I cannot place you in a unit when your primary goal is to somehow become a level six? This war is about survival, son. This is about somehow preserving humanity and our way of life in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Granted, the Adepts continue to be our best defense, but we have no room for individual agendas on the front.”

Jensen sat ramrod straight, feeling as though every word was a blow. He nodded, his neck muscles so tight that it was a stilted movement at best.

“The reason we don’t appoint Adepts out of Academy before their 25th year is because of the extraordinary responsibilities and burdens they must bear,” the older man continued. “I know that you feel you are ready, but you need to understand, I have a great deal more experience in this. I have seen Adepts far more prepared than you nearly crushed by their experiences at the front.” Morgan leaned forward, resting his weight on his folded arms.

“Jensen, I need you to listen very carefully to me.” The grave earnestness of the Justicar’s tone set the young man’s nerves further on edge. “I hesitate telling you this because it is clear to me that too much of your self worth is predicated on your talent, but you are the most powerful kinetic I’ve seen. You have extraordinary potential. But, at this moment, its potential and not reality. If I were to approve your appointment, within six months, you would be in psych or the morgue. Neither are acceptable options. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sir. As much as I am able to, sir.”

Morgan’s hazel eyes narrowed appraisingly. “Your education and training here, to date, have been planned out for you. At the conclusion of this term, I want you to accept full responsibility for your time here. I remove all restrictions, barring anything that would put you in danger, from your curriculum. If you take nothing else from this meeting today, take this: your training is not complete. You must seek out and acquire what you are missing. If you succeed, we will discuss early deployment. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.” Jensen’s pulse raced. The highest ranking Adept in the Republic just challenged him. He had no intention of failing.

“Dismissed,” Morgan concluded. 

Jensen snapped to attention, saluted, and exited the Justicar’s office. As soon as he cleared the doorway, he could not stop the smile spreading across his face. 

If he couldn’t get to the front, this was an acceptable second best.


Upperclassmen mess looked identical to underclassmen mess. Two levels of round tables with ten chairs around each, the décor was much like the food: functional. All Adepts reported to mess three times each day, upperclassmen on the western ring of campus, underclassmen the east. The watchful eyes of the faculty sought out any conduct unbecoming Adepts of the Academy, and as a rule, such infractions were rare. However, a quick glance at the tables showed a rigidly adhered to caste system. Royal and light blue collars grouped together. Red sat with red. The golds, oranges and pale greens of the empaths the only colors that wove in and out.

A cloud seemed to hang over one table, peopled with royal blue macrokinetics, light blue microkinetics, and gold full empaths. “I don’t know what the hell is going on because he won’t talk to me,” Erica said with an obviously high level of frustration. 

“Then he doesn’t wish to discuss it,” Raidon stated flatly, his matter-of-factness grating on Erica’s nerves.

“Ray, Ray, Ray,” Mike patronized. “The lady wants to fret. She has no interest in your logic.” He nearly successfully ducked Erica’s slap to his head. Nearly.

“You aren’t in the slightest bit concerned?” Erica demanded. “First he was late to history, then stormed out of noon mess, and then damned near killed Gryon.”

“Gryon acted without honor,” Nazomi answered, her black eyes cold and hard. “Death would be too honorable for him. I understand Jensen’s actions, but it is better that the coward suffer his shame.”

“You are one cold bitch, girl,” Mike said admiringly.

“Your sweet words will not gain you access to my bed,” she singsonged sweetly. “Maybe you would be more successful with my brother.”

“So that means a threesome is out?” 

“I can say with certainty,” Raidon explained, “You will be alone in your bunk tonight.” 

“As amusing as your perverse discourse is,” Erica interrupted testily. “We are no closer to figuring out what the hell is going on with our friend!”

“Erica,” Raidon said soothingly, “agitation and worry will do nothing to help him. He will talk with you about it when he is ready. No sooner.”

“You are so infuriatingly reasonable,” Erica growled.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling brightly. His smile dimmed when Erica stabbed her fork through the entrée with enough force to crack the plate.


“The son of a bitch had it coming to him,” Chris growled.

Tom rolled his eyes and Alona giggled.

“That’s exactly what you say every time you get in a fight,” Jared pointed out.

“And its true,” Chris asserted. “Every time.”

“He could have easily killed Gryon, if he wanted,” Alona added. “But he didn’t.”

“No, he just snapped the guy’s leg in two,” Tom said, his face twisted in disgust.

“Gryon tried to kill him, Tom,” Chris nearly shouted. “One of the feelers in my econ class said that he tried to stomp Jensen’s head into the mat, and if he hadn’t vaulted when he did, they would be cleaning brains off the floor right now.”

“That is probably overly dramatic,” Jared added. “But I have to say, everything I’ve heard, Gryon deserved everything he got. Now he has to live with this.”

“And Jensen shouldn’t be branded a thug?” Tom asked incredulously. 

“He cleanly broke the guy’s femur,” Chris snarled. “It’s the easiest break to mend, and since the asshole tried to attack him a second time, he got off easy. He’s already up and around, without so much as a limp.”

“And Ackles was hauled off by the Justicar,” Alona said, the trepidation in her voice evident. 

“Maybe he’ll get expelled,” Tom supposed.

Jared stared agape at his friend. “What in the hell do you have against him? The way you are going on you’d think they guy murdered your family. What did he do to make you hate him like this?”

“I don’t hate him, Jared. I just think he’s arrogant and reckless and not nearly as bad ass as he thinks he is.”

“And currently staring at Jared,” Alona smirked.

Jared whipped around before he could help it to find jade green eyes fixed on him. The stare made his heart race and the world around him fade away. After a length of time Jared couldn’t begin to measure, he finally broke free of the gaze and turned around to find Alona smiling dreamily at him, Chris actually giggling at him, and Tom looking murderous. 

“What?” he asked.

Everyone but Tom laughed.


This never gets old, Jared thought to himself. He felt the flow of power out of his core, through him and into the body of the injured student. Like water trickling down to the lowest point, the energy skittered over the wound, settling down on the worst of the damage, healing the body as it went. Bone knitted, cartilage reformed and tendons mended. Knee injuries always posed a challenge, but within a few minutes, he withdrew his hand, revealing a completely healed leg, where swelling and bruising and pain had been before.

The young Adept, not a day older than fifteen, sat up.

“The joint might be slightly stiff for the first couple of days, so take it easy,” Jared told him. The younger man nodded gratefully, a look of wonder in his eyes.

Jared grinned, watching as his former patient walked out of the infirmary, an awkward gait as though he couldn’t believe he could bend his knee. At moments like this, Jared believed Medikinetics had the best talent of all. 

He filled out the requisite forms on his scroll, finally shutting the paper thin computer down and rolling it up into its container. Dr. Shaffer thanked him for coming in at such a late hour. Jared grinned brightly and assured him that he was glad to do it.

Medics had a difficult time training. They could only work on their abilities when someone was injured, an unpredictable occurrence at best. Whenever a patient came to the infirmary, the resident Medic assessed the injury and if time allowed, paged a student to handle the healing. As one of the few level five healers in the Republic, Jared usually got called in for complicated procedures. He honestly didn’t care what he was called in for, as long he got to help someone.

The walk back to his dorm was long, but the valley was breathtaking at night. The campus employed little ambient light, leaving a crystal clear sky with more stars than the young man could count. The night was cool bordering on cold, but his utilities adjusted to the temperature and kept him warm. The pines perfumed the night with their pure, clean scent, and their rustling branches played counterpoint to the insects’ and birds’ quiet nightsong. As he traveled northward, the core glistening with the satellite buildings to his right, he could just make out the tall granite edifice of the upperclassmen dorms. 

The young Medic stuck his hands in his pockets and strolled through the biometrically activated door. He stopped dead when he saw his roommate leaning against the wall.

“Tom?” he asked. “What the hell are you doing awake? Its 0300 hours.”

The tall empath didn’t move, his arms crossed tightly across his broad chest and his gaze never leaving Jared's face. After a prolonged silence, he finally spoke, “are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

Jared stared blankly at him for a moment, right before realization dawned. The page to the infirmary woke him from a particularly vivid and strong dream. He woke severely agitated, gasping for breath. Tom would have sensed that a mile away; from the next bunk, Jared might as well have set off explosives to wake his best friend. 

“It was a dream, Tom,” Jared said quietly. “Just a dream, man.”

“Don’t,” Tom’s tone was clipped and angry. “‘Just dreams’ don’t stir up a shit storm like that, Jared. Five different timbres of fear. Some from your early childhood. Loss in at least three timbres, also some dating from your childhood. I can keep going, but the part that I can’t let go of is that all of this is anchored in the right now. I can feel that in you as sure as I’m looking at you.”

“Dammit, Tom,” Jared turned away from the empath and began to walk down the corridor to their quarters. The empath jammed his balled up fists into the pockets of his trousers and followed his friend.

Jared Padalecki triggered every protective instinct Tom Welling possessed, and somehow managed to amplify the effect by ten. From the moment Tom had seen the hazel-eyed medic, he appointed himself defender and protector. Though older than himself by two years, and more than capable of taking care of himself, Tom instinctively wanted to shield the gentle young man from anything and everything he could.

He had never met anyone as kind, generous and good-natured as Jared. The thought of sending such an extraordinarily warm-hearted person to the front lines of a war caused Tom's stomach to lurch. Jared seemed to him rare, unique and precious. He sensed the odd preoccupation his friend had recently developed with Jensen Ackles, and how the other man returned it.

This troubled Tom. While he could clearly sense the emotion, he couldn’t readily put a name to it. He half expected it to be physical attraction, but it wasn’t. Oddly, that gave him no comfort. Whatever was developing between the two men seemed to only spell bad news. By Tom's estimation, Jensen lacked all of Jared's virtues. 

He had never heard or seen the man to be cruel or evil. He was ambitious to the point of obsession, often cold and distant. Assuredly not the type of person Tom wanted around Jared.

However, he had little say in the matter.

The pair entered their quarters, the soft whoosh of the door closing behind them. Jared flopped down on his bed, arm draped across his eyes, kicking his boots off without bothering to see where they landed. Tom sat on the edge of his bed, waiting.

“We have to be up in three hours for phys drills,” Jared mumbled. “We will talk about this tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” Tom responded, the tightness of his voice alerting Jared that he had one reprieve and wouldn’t get another. 

The young Medic slid under the covers of his bunk, slowing his breathing and heart rate. Clearing his mind and quickly sliding into sleep, he hoped this time that no dreams awaited him.

Chapter Text

Of all of the descriptions we have of Adepts from ancient lore, we have encountered Adepts in our time with those abilities. The only notable exceptions are the oracular gifts, or prescience. We have never seen a reliable or consistent manifestation of that gift. Telepathy is another oddly missing talent. In the current era, we have no reports of anyone manifesting that ability. Of the most commonly described Adept talents in lore, those are the only two missing. A few more obscure abilities, which, frankly, we cannot say to a certainty really existed, have never manifested.

-- Transcript of Interview with Optia Samantha Ferris, Mistress of Disciplines, at the Psionic Ministry of Adepts Academy, as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3155 AT.


Primeval coniferous forest covered the majority of the northern continent of Lyrea. The ancient trees towered hundreds of meters into the sky. The rugged roll of mountains, veined with streams from the melt-off of the much higher peaks in the north, gave way periodically to the massive bays plunging deeply into the coastlines of both sides of the continent. The capitol city of Celestus encircled the largest of the bays, fingering back into the forests, but deliberate efforts by the founders prevented as much loss of wilderness as possible. With the exception of a few small cities peppered through the unending woods, the ancient sylvan world remained untouched. 

Deep within the forest, just over six-hundred kilometers from Celestus, the Academy grounds sprawled out across a great oval-shaped valley. The campus rested amongst the trees, the buildings spaced to preserve them. A large, clear lake formed the southern border, while snow capped peaks, towering twenty-thousand meters hemmed in the north. In all, the campus stretched for two kilometers from the shore of the lake up toward the great mountains. Every other morning, all trainees ran in a wide loop around the edges of the Academy, a circuit of over ten kilometers.

Jensen usually enjoyed the run. He would sometimes complete three or four laps around the grounds in the allotted two hours, just to prove to himself he could. He couldn’t seem to get into the zone this morning, alternating between sprints and jogging. Erica kept pace with him, a not uncommon occurrence, however, she kept cutting concerned looks at him all morning. It was slowly driving him mad. 

He broke his stride, slowing to a walk, and as Erica came up beside him, he stopped and turned to her, raising an eyebrow as her signal to talk. She stood there appraising him, the muted twilight of early morning. At times, he forgot how beautiful she was, long dark brown hair and light brown eyes, high cheekbones and luminous skin. She stood just higher than his shoulder, and fierce intelligence sparkled out of her eyes. Long ago, whatever physical attraction they held for each other passed into something more familiar, like siblings. He knew she loved him and he felt the same way. 

“Are you going to tell me what in the hell is up with you?” she asked. “And if you tell me ‘nothing’ the potential for you to procreate will disappear.”

He smiled at her, reading the subtext under the bravado. “I met with the Justicar.” He paused, watching her features intently. Her eyes widened slightly, and he doubted anyone but himself would have seen it. “I put in a request to be appointed early. He declined it.” 

“I’m sorry, Jen.”

He held up a hand to stop her. “He explained why Adepts aren’t appointed before their 25th birthday, and he’s right. Instead, he offered me complete control of my courses at the Academy. He said I wasn’t ready, and charged me to figure out what I lacked and get it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Well, that’s great but it doesn’t explain the dark rings around your eyes.”

He inwardly cursed her for being so damned perceptive. He would rather go back to Therta and herd cattle than tell her about the dreams. Why his subconscious chose now to fixate on a medic he had never even talked to irritated him no end, but he was certain that was all it was: a fixation. He would get over it. No need to worry his friends over some misfiring synapses.

“That’s enough sharing and caring for one morning, babe,” he smirked at her, turned on his heels and broke into a dead sprint, hoping to find his stride and get on with the morning.


Tom had managed to separate he and Jared from the rest of the morning runners. They walked down empty corridors, sweaty and huffing, on their way to a shower and then mess. Jared entered their quarters to get his utilities to change into after the shower. Clothes and boots in hand, he turned to find the door blocked by a very determined looking empath.

“Do I get to shower first?” he asked, a half smile and mischievous eyes. Tom shook his head and pointed to the younger man’s bunk. Jared's shoulders sank, and he turned around, dropping his uniform on the bed. He rubbed a hand down his face and decided to plunge into it.

“I’ve been having strange dreams,” he began. “They start out when I’m a kid, like four or five. I have a friend, and we do everything together, and I realize that he’s imaginary. I really don’t remember all that clearly if I had an imaginary friend or not, but it all seems very familiar, you know? And even though we’re both really young, I know immediately that this imaginary kid is Jensen Ackles.” He looked up to find a hardness in Tom's eyes. His friend caught himself, and the warmth Jay was used to seeing there returned, so he continued. 

“The dream shifts, and suddenly we’re grown up, here at the Academy, but its so different than how it is now. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever even spoken to him, but in the dream its like we were never parted as kids. Which is completely stupid, since he was imaginary. Anyway, the dream ends the same way every time. An explosion here on campus. We are standing together and then boom. Then I wake up.”

Tom remained silent, his expression frozen. It made Jared intensely uncomfortable.

“It’s just stupid, right? I mean its some bizarre subconscious thing, and it doesn’t mean anything, right?” Tom didn’t answer him. After an awkward silence, Jared repeated himself. “Right?”

Tom dropped his gaze, looking down at his hands. He stood slowly, putting his hand on Jared's shoulder. “After mess, contact your mom,” he said quietly and with an alarming amount of earnestness. Jared stared up at him in confusion.

“Ask her what your imaginary friend looked like,” he mysteriously said and gathered up his utilities and headed out the door. 


Jared sat on his bunk, rubbing a fold in his trousers between his thumb and forefinger, his meager breakfast churning uneasily in his stomach. The idea of his mother confirming that somehow Jensen Ackles was his imaginary childhood friend unnerved him. The ramifications of that wouldn’t even register in his mind. 

He heard the door to his quarters open, but he didn’t need to look up to know that Tom was standing there watching him. He felt the older man project comfort and encouragement to him. A small smile conveyed his thankfulness and his discomfort at his friend using his talents on him. He should be used to it by now, but it always made him feel as though they stood on uneven ground. 

He took a deep breath and keyed his parent’s access number into his wrist com. The small projector in the suite sparked to life, and a three dimensional image of his mother appeared .

“Well, hello there stranger,” she said, her lovely features lit up with a genuine smile. “It’s very early for a call from you. How are you, baby?”

Jared grinned at the endearment. “I’m okay, mom. How are you and dad?”

“We’re fine, son. We miss you like crazy but after all these years, you know that already.”

“I miss you, too.” Jared screwed up his courage and looked at the representation of his mother. “I need to ask you a question: when I was a little kid, did I have an imaginary friend?”

His mother laughed. “Most kids have imaginary friends, son. You were no different.” He tensed immediately, the response not lost in the transmission. “Why do you want to know?”

“Mom, did I ever describe this friend? Like what he or she looked like?”

He could see his mother’s curiosity and concern. “You drew a lot of pictures. They were the typical drawings of a small child, mostly stick figures, not a lot of detail. I don’t know how accurate they were, but he was always about your height and had reddish gold hair and really green eyes.”

The sharp inhalation of breath from her son, echoed in the gasp from somewhere out of her field of vision in the transmission, stopped her cold. “Jared, what’s going on?”

He took a moment to gather himself. “Mom, I honestly don’t know. Did I ever mention his name?”

Now his mother looked hesitant to answer. “Yeah, baby, you called him ‘Sen.’” She watched the color drain from her son’s face. “Jared, you need to tell me what’s going on here, okay?”

“Sorry, mom,” Jared rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms. “I, uh, I’ve been having dreams lately, about my imaginary friend from childhood. I had forgotten about him. But there’s a guy here at the Academy. He has golden hair, and green colored eyes, and his name is Jensen. I don’t know what this means, mom.” His voice sounded impossibly young and frightened. She itched to reach out and hold her son.

“Jared, is there anyone you can talk to about this? I mean, there on Lyrea?” 

“I don’t know, mom. Tom is here. He knows. That helps.” He gazed over at his friend. Tom sat down beside him, his long arm reaching across his friend’s shoulders, drawing him into his side in a half-embrace. His mind swirled with possibilities of what this could mean. 

None of them were good. 

“Do you need me and your dad to come see you?”

“No, mom. There isn’t anything you guys can do. We are in the middle of term. I would hardly get to see you anyway.”

“Alright. But I need to hear from you soon, okay? I’m worried about you.” 

“I know, mom. I’ll contact you in a couple of days. I love you.”

“I love you, too, baby. Tom, take care of him for me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the older man said, tightening his hold on his friend. 

The transmission ended, and Jared felt more alone and more confused. He had no idea what any of this meant. He could feel Tom steadily projecting feelings of well-being at him. It made him feel better, but he knew that for his friend to be locked onto him like this, a constant flow of projected emotions, nothing about this could be good.


“Of the eight colonized worlds, which is the most politically significant?” Professor Manners asked.

“Ialon Beta,” Tom answered. “It has more people, industry, and commerce than all the other planets combined.”

“But Yser produces most of the food for Republic,” Chris interrupted him. “It may only have 300 million citizens, but no planet could so easily sustain the huge agricultural production that Yser does.”

“Therta Prime ships almost all Terran staples to the Republic,” Jensen interjected from across the room. “Grains, livestock, and the staples of the human diet.”

“Well, while everyone is cheering for their home planet,” Jared smirked, “Kruis provides the ores and raw materials for over 90% of the technology that drives the Republic.”

Jensen smiled softly and nodded at Jared as if saying, “Touché.”

“I suppose that we cannot answer your question without a definition of ‘politically significant,’” Jensen said to the professor.

“And that is the correct answer,” Manners smiled. “Tanneus, though largely uninhabited provides huge quantities of vital raw materials. Preteal’s vast oceans give us food and minerals. Xepri Major supplies us with timber and exotic fruits and vegetables. Lyrea gives us the heart of our government. And each one of these worlds has vibrant biological and other planetary sciences that contribute to our understanding of the universe. 

“No planet in the Republic is hands down the most important, and that was by design. Even the extraordinary concentration of people on Ialon Beta doesn’t secure it the strongest voice in government. The term ‘politically significant’ is a lazy term to denote power and who has the most.”

“Does that mean the Psoinic Ministry is the ‘most politically significant’ branch of government?” Nazomi asked. 

“An astute and very uncomfortable question,” Manners answered. “The war has elevated the political power of all Adepts and the ministry significantly. The only true method to measure power is to use it, and fortunately the Justicar is wise enough to realize the peril of such a demonstration. To possess alleged great power and influence fosters resentment and the proliferation of enemies. To possess proven great power and influence assures them. No one knows specifically the kind of political capital at the Ministry’s disposal, so the only available answer to your questions would be speculation.”

“A very politic answer,” Raidon said.

“A fitting answer to a loaded political question,” Jared responded.

“You all might be leaders yet,” Manners laughed. 

“The war gives us a litmus test,” Jensen said gravely. “If the silicates broke through the front, where would the Republic focus its defenses?”

“The doomsday scenario,” Manners answered. “I have no doubt that people far higher up than I have answered that question. I think if you examine your scenario more closely it presents the same problems as my original question. Do we deploy all of our forces to defend Ialon Beta and its 16 billion inhabitants? We would leave critical resources, not only to keep fueling the defense but sustaining the entire Republic, open to destruction.”

“We would defend Lyrea,” said a young man to the back of the auditorium. “Because the Academy is here, and the largest concentration of Adepts in the Republic.”

“It is a logical proposition,” Raidon added. “If the Academy were allowed to fall, so would the entire future of any defense against the silicates.”

“Sacrifice 23 billion people to preserve 15,000,” Jared whispered. 

“Such is the nature of great power, Decurion Padalecki,” Manners said. “It always comes at a great price.”


Midday mess was a somber affair. Jared sat with his friends, but chose a seat that assured him a clear view of Jensen’s table. The others definitely noticed the change but said nothing of it.

“Do you think he was right?” Chris asked, his voice shockingly timid.

“I don’t see an alternative,” Tom answered grimly. “Though if the enemy broke through the front and attacked the core systems, the Justicar might put all of us in the fight.”

“Or they would evacuate all of the Adepts and launch us into space,” Jared offered.

“Like the old ark story,” Alona said.

“So we all go on the run while the rest of our race is disintegrated. That’s a fucking pleasant idea,” Chris said, his gruffness returning in force. 

Tom tried to derail the gloomy conversation. “This is all speculation. In all of these years, they’ve never broken through the front, and everyone knows that every generation of Adepts has been stronger than the last.”

“And more of us,” Jared added, taking to Tom’s hopeful viewpoint. 

“Exactly! So the Republic’s defense is getting stronger and stronger. By the time our class gets our appointments, the tide of the war will shift.” Tom seemed content with his reasoning, and settled back in his chair, poking at his lunch.

Chris got a wicked glimmer in his eye. “So you’re saying we’ll hit the front and kick silicate ass. I can work with that.” 

“You realize they don’t have asses, right?” Alona teased.

Chris hit her with his bread.


Jensen loved his Tactics seminar, hands down his favorite class. Not only did they spend two hours every other day focused completely on the war, learning everything they could about the enemy, about battles old and current, but both classes of Adepts attended. 

With the exception of three seminars, he never saw a support-class Adept in class. Attack-class Adepts drilled together, took a number of courses tailored to their abilities together. He might run into a Medic or a Sensing Empath in the corridor, at mess or during phys drills, but generally support hung with support and attack hung with attack. As his years in the Academy went by, and, he admitted to himself, he grew up, this arrangement bothered him. As far as he could gather from his research, no such segregation took place in the field. Adepts were Adepts, and they looked out for each other without exception. 

Unfortunately, before he became aware of the disparity, he found himself entrenched in a social structure excluding interaction outside of throwers and projectors. He had no idea how to break free of it, and had begun to wonder if this was what the Justicar had alluded to. 

At the moment, however, he kept struggling to keep his eyes open. Certain that lack of sleep from the past week was catching up to him, he tried to force himself to focus on the professor’s voice. An odd feeling of contentment and peace kept washing over him. He suspected that a Projector may be to blame, but none of the four empaths capable of it seemed to be paying him any attention whatsoever. The tall empath, Tom, appeared utterly fixated on the medic that had been haunting Jensen’s dreams. The others busily typed in notes on their scrolls.

He looked down at his own scroll, having typed very few notes for this lesson, sleep tugging hard at him.

The action figure in his hands was one of Jared's favorites. he rubbed his thumb over the toy’s head, his grip tightening as if he feared to lose it. He could see the other boy playing next to him, the sun setting his fiery gold hair alight.

“Momma said I was too old to play with you anymore,” he said quietly, scared of his best friend’s response. 

The other boy didn’t look up, kept playing and said, “You aren’t that much older than me. She’s being silly.”

Jensen felt tears building behind his eyes. “What if she makes us stop? What if she makes you go away?” Golden-green eyes regarded him, a touch of fear in their warm depths.

“Do you want me to go away?” Jared asked him softly. Jensen shook his head violently, head still bowed, fighting tears. Big boys don’t cry, his daddy told him, and he was a big boy. But maybe big boys didn’t play with their best friends. He wanted to make his momma and daddy proud, but he didn’t like this. This hurt. 

“Daddy says you're ‘maginary,” he told the other boy. 

Jared sat up on his knees next to Jen. “Momma says you're ‘maginary, too.”

“I don’t want you to be ‘maginary,” Jensen mumbled, his throat too tight to speak clearly.

“Maybe it's not a bad thing? Maybe it means we are like the best friends ever?” Jared offered hopefully, forcing more cheer than he felt.

Jensen nodded. “Maybe.” As soon as the word left his lips, he knew his friend was gone. 

He held tightly to the small figure in his hands, now larger, fingers longer. The rug of his old room now cold hard granite, the dark gray of the Academy corridors. He still sat with his legs crossed, head bowed, still fighting tears. He could hear the rapid staccato of running steps headed toward him.

“Jen?” The voice was deeper, richer, but still so achingly familiar. He looked up, the blur of unshed tears making it difficult to see the man approaching him. He knew with certainty he would find hazel eyes and chocolate hair. He wiped furiously at his eyes, trying to clear his vision. 

Standing in front of him was Jared. The young Medic in his seminar classes, the best friend he lost years before. It made no sense, but his relief washed over him like a cool wave. The other man looked at him with an expression mirroring his own happiness. He moved to stand, and saw the black shadow fall over his friend. The enemy cruiser moving overhead, obscuring the sun. He screamed, reaching out, as the cannons lit up, engulfing the corridor and his friend in flames.

“Jared!” he screamed. The feeling of the yell ravaging his throat was too real to be a dream. He was wide awake in his seminar class. It looked like a whirlwind had caught up every loose item in the room. He realized he was still screaming the name of his lost childhood friend. He snapped back to himself, the clatter of objects falling to the ground the only sound in the room. 

He leapt to his feet and ran out the door. He had no idea how long he ran, before he finally heard that voice from his dream calling out his name. With tears pouring down his cheeks, he turned, gasping for breath. Jared ran up to him, and before he could think, Jensen launched himself at him, wrapping him up in a desperate hug, his gold-colored head tucked into Jared's neck. He put his arms around Jensen, and sank into the embrace.

Later, both would say that it only took a second, but in that moment, it felt like long minutes. Feelings of relief, comfort, loss, love, acceptance filled them up. The feeling of coming home, of being completely safe. 

The last thing they heard was the violent exploding of the enormous glastinium windows, and then the world went black.

Chapter Text

Some view the idea of a Source as weak-minded. I cannot in good conscience view the evidence and dismiss the idea out of hand. The utter mystery surrounding the Adepts and their origins and their increasing numbers at our time of greatest need, before we even realized how we desperately needed them, can only be fully explained by some intelligent power that we cannot see or comprehend. Some may call me a mystic or a fool, but I cannot escape this conviction. 

-- Transcript of Media Interview with Consul Juris Allister Carmack, as entrusted to Journalist Sari Kelra in 3165 AT.


He felt comfortably warm, safe. He slowly opened his eyes, and immediately watched as dark fluttering eyelashes parted to show irises the color of spring grass. He felt himself smile shyly, an expression echoing the one in front of him. 

He felt concern, fear, but it wasn’t coming from him, or from Jensen. 

“All of their biosigns are completely in sync,” a disembodied voice said. “Brain waves, heartbeat, respiratory, everything is perfectly matched. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

A female voice he couldn’t see said “They are awake.”

The two young men rolled away from each other onto their backs and began to sit up. Justicar Morgan and Optia Ferris stood at the foot of their beds, which had been pushed together. He realized his arm had been tied to Jensen’s. Apparently, the other man realized it at the same time.

“We had to tie you together,” the Justicar said. “We almost lost you both and the doctor discovered that if you were touching you stabilized.”

Jared looked at Jen, feeling not only his confusion but the kinetic’s as well. 

“What happened?” Jen asked. “Were we attacked?”

The Justicar exchanged a dark look with the Optia. “No,” he answered. “You weren’t attacked. We don’t really know what happened. The sensor logs show that shortly after you embraced a shockwave of energy tore the corridor you were standing in apart.”

Jared shot the two officers a shocked look. “How is that possible? I mean, was there a bomb?”

“No,” the Optia interrupted. “The logs show the shockwave originated from the two of you.” 

He looked at Jensen feeling fear from both of them. A sensation of peace started nudging at his consciousness. He realized the Optia was attempting to calm them, but her projection lingered just outside of his mind. 

Jensen spoke first. “How long have we been out?”

“Three days,” the Justicar answered. “Your families and friends are waiting outside. They want to see you.” The Optia nodded at her superior and left the room, presumably to bring in their parents. 

Jared kept feeling emotions not his own, but the most alarming sensation were the feelings from Jensen. He had incredible difficulty distinguishing them from his own. He could feel the other man struggling with the same thing. They felt the others before they came in. The closer they approached, the louder and more powerful their emotions became. By the time they entered the door, his head ached. He glanced at Jensen and saw pain etched on his face. 

Their parents saw them and the pitch of their emotions multiplied exponentially. He felt like he was going deaf with the onslaught of feelings: fear, worry, love, anger, of so many different textures. His mind was seared in pain, his vision going white at the edges. He couldn’t tell if the scream was his or Jensen’s, maybe both. He could hear other shouts, screaming from across the room. He heard voices yelling for people to get out. 

The overhead lights exploded, and he knew no more.


When he came to, he wasn’t surprised this time to see jade green eyes looking back at him. The room was quiet and dim. He could only sense two other people, the Optia and Tom. His head still hurt, a phantom of the overwhelming pain from earlier. He felt relief and fondness that the young empath stood guard over them, concern radiating off the man.

“Welcome back,” the Optia said softly. She tapped her scroll and it rolled up in her palm. “How are you feeling?”

Those impossibly big green eyes blinked back at him. He spoke before thinking, “We are better, heads still hurt, though.”

He felt confusion and anger coming from Tom. 

“Tom,” Jared said, rubbing at his temple. “Stop projecting, man. And lay off Jen.”

“He isn’t projecting,” the Optia replied. “You are sensing.” Two sets of wide eyes turned on her. “And from what happened earlier, you can project as well.”

“We are empaths?” Jensen couldn’t help the high pitch of his voice. 

“It would appear so,” she answered. “And very powerful empaths. I have asked Decurion Welling here to help me teach you how to block.”

Jensen looked at Jared and felt the other man’s confusion, matching his own. They clearly had a great deal to talk about, but now would not be the time. 

Their hands were still bound together, and he somehow found that comforting. Jared must have felt the same way because he could feel the other man’s knuckles rubbing gently back and forth against his own. Somehow, Jared's presence, the warmth coming off his body, and the gentle touch calmed him, shored up his nerves.

They turned to look at the empaths at the foot of their beds. 

“How long were we out this time?” Jensen asked. 

“Just a few hours,” the Optia answered. Whatever sort of emotional dance he and Jared were going through felt oddly just like that: a dance. He could sense every nuance of the other man’s emotions. Their minds moved in tandem, perfectly complimenting the other. He reached out, trying to sense the empaths in front of him. He felt Jared doing the same, his power seemingly twisting around his own, and shockingly, intertwining. He realized they were feeling, sensing the same thing.

He could tell that both Tom and the Optia were blocking, and very solidly. He was amazed at the skill with which they could shield their minds from other empaths. He closed his eyes, allowing his imagination to create an image of his and Jared's combined power flowing over the shields, gently, as though illuminating something invisible. He began to get an idea of the shape and structure of their technique. Jared's mind touched his own, guiding him to things he hadn’t noticed. 

In mere moments, they knew how to shield, but more alarmingly, they could sense clearly the emotions of the other empaths. 

They opened their eyes. Tom stared at them with wide eyes, and the Optia merely raised an eyebrow to show her surprise. 

“Could you strengthen your blocks,” Jared asked them. Tom looked at the Optia.

“We are at our maximum block,” she answered. “You can sense what we are feeling?”

The two men nodded, and sensed her concern and fascination.

“Can you show us how to block others’ feelings?” Jensen asked.

The Optia nodded, and they could feel both she and Tom raise a different kind of block. Again they reached out with their combined powers, feeling out the nature of the shield, and duplicating the effect.

“Tom,” the Octia said. “Project.” He looked at her unsurely, but nodded. Jared and Jensen could feel the vibration at the edge of their block but whatever emotion Tom projected didn’t break through.

“Stronger, Tom,” she ordered. Their block held, and almost reflexively they felt the power of it increase.

“Tom, I need you to put everything you’ve got into it.” The young man looked as though he were about to protest. She reached out a hand and touched his arm. The gesture seemed to be enough.

The block almost shattered, an echo of the emotion seeping through, but power poured out of them, shoring up the shield until nothing permeated it. Tom began to sweat with effort, his hands shaking.

“That’s enough,” she said, and the young empath immediately relaxed. 

Tom looked at them, then her before asking “How?”

The Optia shook her head, not bothering to answer out loud. She stared at Jared and Jensen  for a long moment.

“Do you think you can project?” she asked them. The two men nodded. “Then do it.”

They felt the two empaths’ blocks go up, strong and sure. Neither man desired to hurt them, and decided to try a mild emotion. They pushed out from themselves the feeling of peace and calm. Almost instantly, the blocks disappeared, both Tom and the Optia stood staring blankly at them, their eyes completely vacant, their faces slack.

Jared withdrew an instant before Jensen. 

“What the hell was that?” Tom demanded, returning to himself.

“I don’t know,” the Optia said. “I don’t have any idea.”

The emotions coming from the two made Jared uncomfortable and both his and Jensen’s blocks came up immediately. He couldn’t feel anything from Tom or Ferris, but he could still feel Jensen’s emotions with amazing clarity.

“Optia,” Jensen began, “We can still sense each other.”

The officer said nothing and continued to stare at them. Finally she said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have answers for you. I can’t explain this.”

Jensen felt Jared's fingers intertwining with his. He squeezed back with reassurance he didn’t feel. 

“Now that you can block, do you want to see your families?” she asked.

“Could we have a minute alone with Tom?” Jensen asked. Tom appeared shocked at the request. The Optia nodded, and left the room. Jensen could tell how uncomfortable the young empath was around him. He didn’t know how to ease his fears, and apparently, Jared had no idea either.

“Tom,” Jensen began. “I know you don’t like me, but . . .” He was unsure how to continue. He rubbed his freehand down his face. “I don’t know what is going on right now, but all I can tell you is that you are very important to Jared. Whatever is going on, I can feel that, too. I know that this doesn’t make it better, but it feels like you are my best friend.” His voice trailed off. He felt like he only made things worse.

The young man stood there, struck dumb. Jared reached out his hand, and almost automatically, Tom took it.

“I know its hard, Tom,” Jared gently said. “But however long this lasts, I need you to try. Okay?” The tall youth looked down at his and Jared's joined hands, and then over to where his best friend's arm was tied to Jensen. Without lifting his head, he nodded. 

“Tom,” Jensen pleaded. “I won’t disappoint you, I promise. I won’t make you regret trying.” His pale green eyes locked onto Jensen’s. He was tempted to lower his block to get an idea of what the other man was feeling, but decided against it. 

He needed to earn this.


The parade of concerned parents, siblings and friends had finally subsided. Even with the block in place, Jared and Jensen were exhausted. The skittishness of their visitors didn’t require empathy to detect. They had gotten enough snippets of what happened right before they blacked out from the first visit to piece together what happened. They had projected their fear and pain to a point that several people had to be sedated. The exploding displays and lights added to the panic.

They felt bad for the damage they had caused, and they hadn’t even seen the corridor they apparently demolished. Trying to grasp all that had happened, all that had changed, pushed them too close to that precipice they had plunged off into twice already. They just trusted each other to provide an anchor, to keep them steady and grounded.

Tom never left the room, taking up a sentry position in the corner. Erica had come to visit and taken over the other corner by the door. It amused both of the guys terribly, that over the course of the evening the two watchdogs had moved closer to each other. They had begun to exchange short spurts of conversation. Jared detected a thawing between them, and if he hadn’t been so tired he would have been shocked that Jensen laughed when he thought it.

Finally, only their two friends remained, and the Justicar and Optia entered. 

“How are the two of you feeling?” the officer asked. 

Jared looked at Jensen before answering. “Tired. Confused. Freaked.”

The older man chuckled. “I can imagine. Look, I’ll be very honest with you. We really have no idea what is going on here. We can’t explain any of this, but we are going to do everything we can to help you through it.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jensen responded. “We appreciate that.”

“If you need anything, call my office here on the grounds,” the older man continued. “Either Optia Ferris or myself will take care of it.”

The two men felt a strange mixture of gratitude and worry that one of the most powerful individuals in the entire Republic made them the offer. They just smiled shyly and nodded, mumbling, “yes, sir.”

“We are going to keep you here in the infirmary for at least two more days,” the Justicar smiled at the matching disgruntled expressions they wore. “We aren’t taking any chances. I trust you will be model patients during your stay?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rest, gentlemen. You’ve been through a lot. That’s an order.” With a final grin, he and the Optia left. Tom and Erica moved closer, reaching out and grasping the guys’ ankles underneath their blankets. The gesture moved both Jared and Jensen, grateful for the comfort. The friends bade each other good night, and they watched Tom and Erica quietly leave the room.

The gentle whirring of the monitors in the room and the dim light, not to mention their exhaustion, slowly lulled them to sleep. They curled up, facing each other, only their still bound hands touching. They both had more questions than answers, and their lives had taken a dramatic and unexpected turn. But tonight, they were just too tired to worry with it.

In moments, they slept.


“Tell me this isn’t freaking you out,” Erica said as they exited the medlab, the night sky sparkling above them.

“This isn’t freaking me out,” Tom said with convincing earnestness. 

Erica stopped dead in her tracks, her mouth hanging open. Tom took in her bug-eyed appearance and lasted about three seconds before cracking up. It took the young woman about one second to begin hitting him. Tom only laughed harder when she shoved him and called him an ass, but he could tell she was on the verge of laughing right along with him.

Tom put his hands in his pockets, walking by Erica and gently bumping her shoulder with his. As they walked along the path that ran alongside the northeastern edge of the Core leading them to the upperclassmen dorms at the northern edge of campus, Tom ducked his head. “I’m completely freaked out. Just so you know.”


“Yeah. Even for Adepts, this is pretty much off the scale for weird.”

“Have you seen the corridor?”

“No. I don’t want to. If it's as bad as I’ve heard, I don’t want to know.”

“It’s worse,” Erica said softly. “I keep waiting to hear that they’ve been taken somewhere. To be contained, or studied, or dissected.”

“I know. And now these new abilities. Not to mention the dreams.”


“Jared has been having recurring dreams of his imaginary friend when he was kid. Apparently, he wasn’t very imaginary because it was Jensen.”

Erica swung around in front of the tall man and put her hand on his chest to stop him. “Care to explain that?”

“When Jared was a little kid, he had an imaginary friend that looked like Jensen and who he called ‘Sen.’ He recently started having dreams about Jensen.”

“Son of a bitch,” Erica whispered.

“You okay?”

“What? No, I mean yeah. Jensen had been a walking zombie for a couple of weeks now, but I couldn’t get him to talk about it.”

“Don’t feel bad. Being an empath has its advantages. I was able to corner Jared up and make him tell me.”

“The next time he stonewalls me I’m coming to get you.”

They continued walking, and Erica said, “So does this mean they are also telepathic?”

“I don’t know. We’ve never seen a telepath before. But we’ve never had Adepts spontaneously develop new talents.”

“Or blow out a blast reinforced wall.”

“Or that.”

“You don’t like Jensen.”

Tom sighed and walked silently for a moment. “Jared told me I had to cut him some slack. To put aside my dislike of Jensen, but all I know of him is that he’s an arrogant, reckless, slutty, bad boy.”

Erica laughed, which startled him. “What you know if him? Is a reputation that Jensen worked damned hard to create and has very little to do with who he is.”

“Isn’t that worse?”

“I could see how you would think that. But the real Jensen, who very few people ever get to see, is this quiet, shy, scared kid who spends most of his life shadowboxing ghosts.”

“I don’t think that makes me feel much better about him, literally, being attached to Jared.”

“All I am trying to tell you is he’s not a bad guy. Give him a chance, and if he gives you any shit, you come find me and I’ll kick his ass back in line.”

Tom burst out laughing at that, and Erica joined him. “So here we are, the self-appointed guardians,” Tom said. 

“Which means when we walk through those doors we are gonna get mobbed with questions.”

“Probably,” Tom said. They had both stopped and were staring at the doors to the dorm building they both shared. 

“We could probably do it together,” Erica offered.

“Would probably be easier.”

“And your gang and my gang might distract each other enough to take it easy on us.”

“I really like the way you think.”

They walked together into the building.

Chapter Text

The Ministry of Psionic Adepts has long suffered the disdain of many prominent members of our society. So often we treat mystery in our world as anathema, and the Adepts are nothing if not mysterious. The target of so much of this discontent, the Justicar Psionica had to fill a political, military and borderline religious position. Who can deny the exquisite irony that the most vocal detractors of PsiMin became their most devout supporters the moment the Intrepid perished under alien fire.

-- Interview with Justicar Conservator Julian Torrez as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3120 AT.


The following day went by faster than either of them had thought it would. It felt like they awoke to a strange world. They had to keep a block in place against the emotions of others. The connection between them seemed stronger and still as alien, neither man knowing quite what to make of it, but drawing as much comfort and strength from it as they could.

When they woke, the first thing they did was seek out an orderly to remove the binding between their hands. It felt good and at the same time uncomfortable to no longer be physically connected. They periodically would find their hands brushing up against each other, the relief from the contact palpable and unsettling.

A flow of friends and family in and out of their room in the infirmary began only an hour or so after they woke. Thankfully, they each had time for a quick steam shower, and to change into scrubs. When Jared, the last to shower and change, exited the en-suite bathroom, he felt a sensation of comfort wash over him to see Jensen sprawled out on their freshly changed beds, still pushed together. Tom and Erica chatted with the golden-headed man, but Jared noticed the tightness around his green eyes loosening and a small smile playing about his lips when he caught site of his counterpart.

Jared plopped down on the empty bed, and smiled brightly at Tom and Erica, the sight of them presenting a united front for their sakes warmed his heart. He certainly hoped the two would become close friends. He often worried that Tom spent too much time worried over him, and not enough time on his own happiness. He suspected that Erica could match Tom's protective streak centimeter for centimeter. Though he had never really spoken to the young woman before him, he felt powerful affection for her. He supposed the feeling originated with Jensen, but he didn’t examine it too closely.

When asked why they weren’t in class, they both fairly growled, with Erica finally responding, “Classes be damned.” Jared exchanged amused looks with Jensen.

The rest of their respective social circles stopped by over the course of the morning, their hesitance and seeming nervousness bothered both of the recovering men. Part of the awkwardness stemmed from the two disparate groups being forced together by circumstances beyond their control. It didn’t take an empath to see the furtive glances, the strained attempts at including strangers into familiar conversation. But that could not explain the fear Jensen and Jared sensed too often in their friends. They understood the strangeness of their situation, but after hearing brief reports of the damage to the corridor, and the frightened reactions the incident instilled in people that were nearly as close as family, they both grew concerned. 

The enormous, arcing plastinium windows of the hallway had all been shattered, completely blown out. The material could resist blasts as strong as small bombs. The fact that they had apparently caused the destruction defied explanation. No Adept possessed enough power to crack one of those windows. To be able to blow out two hundred meters worth made no sort of sense. Even having heard the same thing from several different, trustworthy sources, did not make it seem any more real or any less fantastic. 

In between uneasy visits from their classmates, their parents popped in and out of the room, checking on them, as though to make sure they hadn’t disappeared and were in fact alright. Their mothers appeared to have bonded, but Jared would catch his mom’s eyes lingering on Jensen. He knew he couldn’t avoid the conversation forever, but he had no desire to push it now. Through it all, Tom and Erica rarely left the room.

In the early afternoon, the Justicar walked through the door. They exchanged the obvious pleasantries, and Jensen asked their watchdogs if they could have a moment alone with their commander. The pair grudgingly agreed, and Jared had no doubt they would be perched immediately outside the door.

The Justicar sat in one of the two available chairs, quietly waiting for the questions that would no doubt come from the two young men before him. 

“Sir, I know you said that you don’t know what happened, but do you have any theories?” Jensen asked quietly as though fearful of the answer to his own question.

“Honestly, I just don’t know,” the older man began. “The sensor data shows a shockwave of incredibly power emanating from the two of you. We have never recorded that much energy flowing from an Adept. Considering the devastation of the hall, I can only be grateful no one else was there at the time.” 

Both young men shuddered at the thought, closing their eyes to block out hypotheticals that could serve no good purpose. 

“We have no record of anything resembling what happened. From what we have gathered, the two of you had never associated before, no contact, but the moment you did, this happens,” the Justicar paused to gather his thoughts. “We are trying to understand this, for a number of reasons, but first and foremost among them is that we need to help the two of you. I know this is overwhelming to deal with, but all of the staff here, and your friends, will support you. I hope you know that.”

“What are the other reasons?” Jensen asked.

Morgan’s assessing gaze swept over the pair. “We have to understand what is going on to be able to teach you to control these new abilities. If you fail at control, obviously, the situation becomes perilous, and given what we’ve seen so far, potentially lethal. We aren’t talking about carting you off to some isolated moon where the only thing that could get damaged is some rocks. 

“If you can learn to master your power, it doesn’t take a brilliant strategist to see the potential impact this could have on the war. I think you both already have thought of this, but I doubt you have thought of how much more difficult this turn of events makes these final years before you commission.

“Adepts come here to learn how to control their abilities and how to best use them to serve. Normally, cadets have 12 or more years to come to terms with their talents, to master them, and learn the triumphs and temptations of those gifts. You have three years to achieve all of that on a scale we have never seen before. If you are not fully prepared, placing you on the front could be the single most catastrophic event of the war. Do you understand?”

Both men nodded, falling silent as the weight of their commander’s words settled down on their shoulders. Jared spoke first. “Sir, I know Optia Ferris has told you, but it appears we are now empathic. We don’t understand how that could happen.”

“We really don’t either,” the older man answered. “I cannot find a precedent for a manifestation so late in life, forgetting the circumstances surrounding this. From what Samantha told me, you appear to be far more powerful empaths than any we have encountered before. Decurion Welling is the strongest projector we have. He’s young, and needs more training, but no one in PsiMin can match his abilities. Until now. 

“We have very few Adepts that have manifested more than one ability, and certainly none in all of our history that have manifested so strongly. The Optia explained that you mastered very complicated empath techniques almost instantly. However disconcerting that may be for you, its comforting to know that you can begin to control this new gift without the normal learning curve young empaths have to endure.”

Morgan watched the two young men, his expression grave, as though trying to figure out a complex puzzle. He could sense the unease riddling his charges. He had no idea how to assuage it. 

“I need for both of you to try and rest. Your recovery comes before anything else. We can try to understand these events better when you are back on your feet, but for now, let your questions go. There will be sufficient time for seeking answers later. Understood?”

Neither man mistook the order in the words.

“Yes, sir.” They both answered. Morgan smiled kindly at them, and took his leave. As the door closed behind him, he could see Tom and Erica standing guard. He chuckled, then schooled his features, turning to address the pair.

“Watch over them.”

“Of course, sir,” Erica answered, Tom nodded in agreement. They exchanged bemused glances as the Justicar walked away from them down the hall.


When they were finally alone that evening, they quietly discussed the events that led them to this point. They shared the recurring nightmare that had plagued their sleep for the weeks immediately prior to “the incident.” Their dreams were identical, the only change being they each perceived it from a different perspective: Jared seeing Jensen’s bowed and seated form in the corridor, both of them looking skyward to see the approaching enemy ship, the flames engulfing them both.

They agreed to no longer put off the conversation they needed to have with their parents and the Justicar. They would do it in the morning and hope for the best.

Surprisingly, they slept deeply throughout the night, only waking when the orderly came to check their vitals. Following their meager breakfast, they called for their parents and the Justicar. Their mothers and fathers arrived first, the Justicar and Optia arriving shortly after.

Jensen began by asking his mother if she remembered his “imaginary friend,” from his early childhood. She looked at him curiously, saying that she vaguely remembered.

“Do you remember if I ever described what he looked like? Did I ever call him by name?”

The petite dark headed woman thought for a moment, and then alarm and shock spread across her delicate features.

“Brown hair, hazel eyes, and you called him Jared,” she answered quietly. Jared noted the Justicar and Optia looked more shocked than anyone on the room. 

Jared addressed Jensen’s mother. “I had an imaginary friend, too. Red-gold hair, green eyes, and I called him ‘Sen.’ I guess I couldn’t correctly say his name when I was a kid.” He paused to let this revelation sink in. “I don’t know if either of us would have remembered if it hadn’t been for the dreams.”

Optia Ferris spoke up, “Dreams?”

Both men nodded and Jensen explained their nightmares. The six older adults all paled visibly at the description of a fiery death for these two young Adepts. A long, uncomfortable silence filled the room. 

As if answering their unspoken question, the Justicar said “We have no record of anything like this happening before. This sounds a great deal like telepathy, and no Adept has ever manifested that talent in the history of the Republic.”

“How long did this go on? This ‘imaginary’ friendship between you two,” Optia Ferris asked.

“I don’t really know. I don’t remember it starting,” Jared explained. “I remember Mom and Dad explaining to me that Jen wasn’t real, that I was too old to pretend like that. I guess I was six, maybe seven? I know that it continued for a bit after that, and then I don’t know. I just stopped seeing him.” 

Jensen nodded his agreement with Jared's account.

“After you came to Academy, you didn’t recognize each other?” Ferris questioned. “You didn’t associate with each other at all?”

“No, ma’am,” Jensen answered. “I manifested not long after I stopped seeing Jared. By what we can figure, I had already been here four years before Jared arrived. I had completely forgotten about all of it until the dreams started, and then I just wrote it off as fatigue. We really never had a chance to mingle socially. Throwers and Bandaids move in separate circles. I started catching grief because I was paying attention to Jared in the last couple of weeks. Its like I just noticed him for the first time and couldn’t explain why I couldn’t get him out of my mind.”

“The same thing happened to me,” Jared said. “I just suddenly noticed him, and quickly after that the dreams started. I thought my brain was malfunctioning, but Tom made me call mom and ask about my childhood after he cornered me and forced me to tell him about the dreams.”

No one spoke. Their parents gravitated toward each other, unconsciously seeking comfort from their mate. Optia Ferris stared at the pair of Adepts, while the Justicar stood with his hands in his pockets, staring at the floor.

“We don’t understand this anymore than you do,” Jensen explained. “But we’ve talked about it, and for whatever reason, something connected us, maybe from birth. Maybe there is a Source and it meant for Jared and I to work together. I don’t know, but I do know that of all the weirdness that has happened in the past couple of weeks, I am very thankful to have my friend back.” He squeezed Jared's hand. 

Jared shyly grinned back.

Morgan pulled his hands from his pockets, folding them behind his back, standing straight and tall. Jared thought he looked as though he was putting on the commander, and putting away the man.

“Thank you for telling us this,” the older man began. “Somehow, it's important. I know we can’t see it now, but hopefully we will understand better in time. I know you two are eager to get back to your classes, and I see no reason to delay that further. If the doctor gives you the all clear in the morning, you may return to your schedules.”

The two young men smiled brightly at the news, though their families appeared far less enthused. 

“Sir, would it be possible for us to get out of this suite for few minutes today?” Jared asked. 

The Justicar curiously looked at them. 

“We would like to see the corridor before tomorrow,” Jensen continued. “We want to see what happened.”

Morgan thought it over for a long minute. Finally, he nodded. “No better time than the present.” He turned and walked slowly to the door, waiting for the younger Adepts to follow him. They scrambled out of the still joined beds, standing three paces behind their commander, as per their training. The Justicar nodded again and started down the hallway. 

They stopped in front of a sealed blast door, that neither Jared nor Jensen could remember having been closed. The locking mechanism scanned the Justicar biometrics, the meter thick interlocking door panels parting, and a chill breeze pushed through the widening aperture, shocking them both.

Nothing could prepare them for what awaited on the other side. The cold granite floors, thirty meters wide and curving around the long circular edge of the classroom core, did not seem to be damaged, apart from the debris, most of which had been cleared away. The windows of the corridor, twenty meter wide sections arcing up and over to meet the inner concentric wall some fifty meters over their heads, those vast beautiful windows, were completely gone. They could see several of the giant pines bordering the building had been damaged, limbs a full meter in diameter nearly fully severed from the trunk. At least half of the stronger, solid ribs that joined the window segments had large sections missing; the shattered fragments on the floor the only hint of their fate. 

They could clearly make out the point where Jared had reached Jensen, the spot of their embrace. Ground zero. Apart from the area nearest to where they had stood, they could see very little damage to the inner wall. However, for the first seventy or so meters from the epicenter, the solid, thick walls looked warped and buckled. The devastation robbed them of their voices. They stood, hands tightly clenched together, wild and unpleasant thoughts rampaging through their minds.

The clear high voice of Optia Ferris broke through their stupor. “This could have been worse. Much worse,” she explained. “I’ve seen the logs, I’ve done the calculations. At no other point in the day could this have happened without fatalities. Even a few minutes sooner or later, someone would have died. I am not one to ascribe to Source theory, but this makes even a hardened cynic like me wonder.”

Their gratitude must have shown on their faces because she smiled softly at them, patting Jared on the shoulder before stepping over some rubble to walk slightly further up the hallway.

“It’s just a building, you know,” the Justicar spoke so very softly that Jared and Jensen wondered if they had misheard. “We have already started to rebuild. All of this can be replaced. Will be replaced. I choose to be grateful for not losing that which can never be replaced.”

Their commander sounded so vulnerable, so human, that they simply gaped at him. 

“Boys, this is a very difficult time for all of us. Yes, the Adepts remain our best defense and offense against the silicates, and that sounds all well and good, but no one talks about how that fact alone forces me to put unit after unit of gifted, talented, and extraordinary young men and women on the front line. Right in harm’s way. People aren’t talking about how many Adepts have died in this war. I don’t talk about how every time I sign another set of orders I feel like I am signing away more lives. So, I look at this and can’t help but think, no great or important thing has been lost here. I damn well want to keep it that way.”

His rough, rumbling baritone, pitched low and quiet but pregnant with conviction and sorrow, stopped as his words carried away in the wind that had no place in the corridor. Without another word, he turned and walked back down the intact hallway, leaving the two young men watching his retreating back, their hair and clothing rippling in the breeze.

Chapter Text

Their origins remain a complete mystery. All we know is that they came and brought hope to a hopeless situation. We may never know how they came into being. I, for one, don’t need to know. I am content that the Republic remains because they exist at all.

-- Interview with Consul Legate Teryn Adoyo as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3172 AT.


Less than an hour had passed since he and Jared parted company outside the infirmary, and he felt as though he would fly apart. He shared no classes with Jared today, and the earliest he could possibly see him would be at lunch. He honestly did not know if he could wait that long. Every part of him ached. His hands trembled. He couldn’t focus. Only halfway through his Macrokinetic Strategies class, he didn’t even pretend to pay attention any longer. He swore he could feel Jared, halfway across the campus, suffering in the same way he suffered. His fists clutched so tightly to his chair seat that his knuckles were white. 

Michael kept shooting concerned glances at him. He tried to smile, do something to ease his friend’s mind. It bothered him to no end that one of his closest friends now looked at him with fear. He didn’t know how to assuage those fears. He felt the fear, too.

He pushed away all other thoughts, focusing solely on getting through the next few hours. Jensen felt like an addict, the need to be near Jared becoming stronger by the minute. He knew that if he could just push through this, the compulsion would go away.

At least he hoped so.

By the time the professor dismissed them, a fine sheen of sweat covered his brow. He walked unsteadily out the door to find Nazomi and Raidon waiting for him and Michael. Nazomi smiled coyly at him, wrapping her arm around his waist. He smiled down at her, more thankful for her display of support and acceptance than he could say. He basically let her lead him to the drill arena. He tried to concentrate on the rhythm of their steps, ignoring his extreme discomfort. Unfortunately, he constantly sensed Jared's condition, no better than his own. If the doors of the arena hadn’t closed behind him, he would have turned and run to the other man. 

He could feel Jared so clearly that he swore he could touch him. He gasped when he felt Jared reach through their connection. Without thinking, he reached back. He had no idea what was happening. He found comfort in the connection, but it did not mitigate his physical symptoms. He pulled back into himself, trying to listen to the instructor. 

The exercise today would focus around an Adept spending a tour at the Academy after serving two at the front. Shielders were among the rarest of all Adepts. Jen could think of only three presently at the Academy. Tomis Dynal was the strongest shielder on record. He would throw up his strongest shield today, allowing the trainees to try a much stronger kinetic throw than they would normally attempt. The instructor ordered them all to keep it simple, throws anywhere near maximum capacity were prohibited. They could attempt stronger throws later in the week.

Jensen hoped he could get through this, do a half-ass throw, and get the hell out of the arena and to Jared. He followed Raidon to the line, thankful they were relatively close to the front. He felt a tug on that strange connection with Jared. He needed to get out of here. 

He massaged his temples, the throbbing of his head growing in severity. When Raidon stepped into position for his throw, Jen shook his head, shrugged his shoulder, trying to shake off his malaise long enough to do this and get out.

He walked up to his mark, relaxed, and let the throw flow out of him. He knew immediately it had gone horribly wrong. The energy tore the air.

The moment it touched Dynal’s shield, the shield shattered, throwing the man one hundred meters against the far wall, with enough impact to tear the padding off the walls. Jensen watched in horror as the other man fell like a rag doll to the floor. 

He launched himself forward, trying to reach his fallen comrade, desperate to find him okay. When he reached his side, Jensen’s knees gave out. Dynal was conscious, but his neck was clearly broken, blood coming out of his mouth and ears. It could have been minutes or hours but he immediately felt Jared's presence when he entered the arena.

The Medic sprinted to Jensen, taking in the broken body in front of his friend. Jensen’s voice played on a loop in his head. “Help him. Help him.”

Jared kneeled beside the golden-haired man, Jensen immediately grabbed his hand. Jared reached out, a flood of healing energy welling up within him. He closed his eyes and could see it flow into the dying man. He watched in fascination as the shattered vertebrae in his neck knitted together, the intricate bundle of nerves in his spinal chord reconnecting and righting themselves. The streams of energy covered the man from head to toe, concentrated sparks in the areas of greatest injury. 

Finally, the streams just flowed off of Dynal’s formerly broken body. Jared pulled back, opening his eyes. Jensen stared at him, eyes wide, a strong sense of awe coming back at him through their connection.

The adrenaline faded as rapidly as it beset them, and as they faced each other, kneeling there on the floor, they collapsed against each other. Their foreheads touching, their hands tightly gripping each others’, the buzz of the room faded away in the profound relief of being physically connected again.

After untold minutes, a hand fell on Jared's shoulder, a soft feminine voice whispering, “Stop”, broke them out of their trance. They looked around the room to see the thirty or so people present staring blissfully off into space. They immediately blocked their emotions, breaking the projection. The trainees and staff shook off the stupor, and Jen looked up to see Optia Ferris staring down at them. He saw the Justicar shaking his head, as if to clear unseen cobwebs, walking toward them. 

As he walked, he ordered the instructor to clear the Adepts out of the arena and the Medics to get Dynal to the infirmary. The Shielder stood up, clearly in shock, and followed the orderlies out of the arena on his own two legs.

Jared looked over Jensen’s shoulder, gasping at the sight of the back wall. Jensen looked behind him and almost vomited. 

The thick padding sagged off the wall, a vivid, wide streak patch of red where Dynal hit. The man had bounced a full twenty meters before landing on the floor. A sickening puddle of crimson spread out for a meter around where he had been.

Jensen began shaking violently as Jared's tight embrace only slightly diminished his tremors. He finally couldn’t hold it anymore, and broke free of the younger man’s arms, turning to the side and emptying his stomach on the gore-covered floor. His sobbing echoed through the massive, empty room. He felt a warm hand on the nape of his neck, and then a blast of cool comfort spreading from his core. 

“Come on,” the Justicar finally said. “Let’s get you two out of 

They stood on shaky legs, trying their best to follow their commander out into the hall. The Optia followed behind them, doing her best to project calm onto them. Neither could remember the journey, but found themselves huddled together, side-by-side on the large, warm couch in the Justicar’s office. Morgan and Ferris took the chairs facing them in the sitting 

When it appeared they had gained some semblance of control over themselves, Morgan asked them to tell him what happened.

Jensen began by explaining his fatigue and distress after being separated from Jared. The young Medic confirmed that he too suffered the same symptoms. Jensen recounted the events leading up to the near fatal throw.

“Sir, I didn’t even try,” Jen pleaded. “All I wanted to do was get the hell out of there and get to Jared. I swear that throw shouldn’t have knocked over a lamp. I didn’t have the strength or concentration for anything more.”

Morgan looked at Samantha. She nodded, and he returned his attention to the two young men. 

“I can’t tell you what happened, because I just don’t know. I knew it was a weak attempt, but the second after the throw, I knew it was all wrong. I could feel how much stronger it was. I have never thrown with that much power. Not on my best day.” Jensen’s voice broke, his shoulders sagging, head hanging. 

“I believe you, son,” the Justicar told him. “From what I saw, the aftermath, no macrokinetic has ever thrown that hard.”

Jensen was torn between being profoundly relieved and heartbroken at how disastrous the morning had become. The door chime sounded, and the Justicar rose to answer it.

Jared and Jensen couldn’t make out what the muffled voices said, but in truth, they weren’t even trying. Jared had one arm across Jensen’s back, trying to comfort his friend, feeling his pain acutely. He saw the Optia watching them with tangible compassion. 

A few moments later, the Justicar returned to his seat and addressed Jared. “Son, I need you to tell me what happened from your perspective.”

“I, uh, I couldn’t take it anymore, the separation I mean.” Jared spoke softly, unsure of how to describe what happened. “I told my professor I had to go to the infirmary. I . . . “ He stopped rubbing a hand over his face. “I panicked. I just felt something terrible had happened. I took off in a dead run for Jen.”

“You were in anatomy?” Morgan asked, and Jared nodded. 

Optia Ferris tapped at her scroll. “Sir,” she said. “Jared left anatomy four and half minutes before he reached the arena. He entered 38 seconds after the accident.”

Jensen looked up as Jared looked startled. “That doesn’t make sense.” 

“Son, did you feel the panic set in after you left class?” the Justicar asked.

“No, sir,” Jared answered. “It was the reason I left class. I just knew I had to get to the arena.”

“Alright, what happened after you entered the arena?” Morgan prompted him.

“I saw Jen, and the injured Adept. I ran to them, umm, I kept hearing Jen saying ‘help him,’ over and over. So I tried to heal him.” Jared stopped, the memory of healing the broken body still too fresh and too confusing. 

“Can you describe his injuries?” Ferris asked.

“Umm, I can try,” Jared answered, pausing to fix in his mind the mental image of the power coursing over the injured body. “The seven vertebrae from his cranium down his neck and back were shattered, his spinal chord severely damaged. The back of his skull was crushed, extensive injuries to his occipital and parietal lobes and the cerebellum. All of his ribs were fractured, three of them puncturing his lungs. His pelvis was fractured. He had injuries to most of his internal organs, and a lot of damage to his muscles, ligaments and tendons.”

Morgan and Ferris stared at him, slack-jawed. The Justicar blinked several times before asking “And how much of that damage were you able to heal?”

Jared suddenly looked shy. He stared resolutely at the carpet. “All of it?” 

Jensen watched the Justicar struggling to maintain a composed countenance. 

“Sir,” Ferris broke the silence. “The scan supports his statement, and the medical report confirms Dynal is uninjured. All of his injuries had been healed by the time the med team arrived. And,” she paused, looking directly at Morgan, avoiding looking at the two young men. “Jensen was silent the entire time. He did no speak until we entered this office.”

“It would appear we have our first telepath, Samantha.” The Justicar stood and walked to his desk. He bent slightly at the waist and began tapping on the surface of a scroll. When he finished he returned to his chair, crossing his legs and steepling his fingers in front of him. 

“Until we get a clearer picture of what has happened to the two of you, I’m removing you from classes here,” the panicked expressions staring back at him gentled his tone. “Boys, you are by no means in trouble. You aren’t being punished or any other such nonsense. Right now, maintaining your routine exposes you and your classmates to danger.”

Before either of them could protest he held up a hand and continued. “I am operating on the premise that your abilities have increased significantly, and you have manifested new talents, some we’ve never seen before. By what I saw today, and what clues I’ve gathered from the two previous incidents, you have no idea the limits of your strength, and therefore have no effective means to control your powers. Jared, do you realize that in your attempt to calm Jen in the arena that you projected with such force that you entranced 34 Adepts and students?”

Jared shook his head slowly, afraid to speak.

“Optia Ferris is our most highly trained empath, and it took every ounce of her conditioning to break through enough to ask you to stop. Understand it was far from an unpleasant experience. I don’t know when I have ever felt so utterly at peace, but the effect was so powerful I had no desire to break free. I just wanted to stay in that peace. I hope you see how dangerous this could become.

“So far, everything either of you has done came from completely pure intentions. Unfortunately, the results have been, well, dramatic understates the situation nicely. I told you that the entire staff here would support and help you. As the headmaster, that support extends to the entirety of PsiMin. We will sort this, gentlemen. For the moment, I have to make the choice to separate you from your peers. I have no intention for the arrangement to become permanent. The first and most important change is that you will share quarters from this point forward. 

“Secondly, the Academy is not prepared to adequately deal with all of this. Tomorrow morning, you will be transferred to Quel’Alta. The facilities there are more secure and safer to help the two of you feel out the scope of your abilities. I will be with you the entire time. If you like, Optia Ferris can accompany us.”

Jared and Jen nodded, saying, “Please, sir,” in perfect unison.

Morgan watched the two men in front of him. Handsome, bright, brilliant Adepts and now apparently more so, they looked impossibly young. The past two weeks clearly effected them both deeply. He knew, as the high commander of all Adepts, he should remain detached, but he felt instinctively protective of them. He could almost laugh at the thought, since they had demonstrated repeatedly they needed no one’s protection. He ached for the sudden burden pressing down on them, wearing them down. He needed to get a handle on this. For their sakes. 

“You have the rest of the day. If you don’t wish to join your mates in mess, the staff will bring trays to your new quarters.” He stood, signaling an end to the conversation. “You are dismissed.” The tips of the fingers of his right hand skimmed lightly across the polished wood of his desk top.

“Boys, might I suggest that for the remainder of the day, you spend some time with your friends? It could be several days before you see them again, and I am certain they are all extremely concerned.” The two young men stood in the doorway, at attention. “However, don’t use your abilities. That’s an order.”

“Yes, sir.”

The soft sound of the door sealing behind them meant he and Samantha were alone.

“You didn’t tell them,” she said.

“No.” He walked around his desk and sat down heavily in the chair. Pulling a very old and well-used book from a locked drawer in his desk, he set it directly in front of him, resting a hand flat against the leather-bound tome. “It’s a theory, Samantha, and not even a very good one. The evidence from lore is dubious at best.”

“And you don’t find the parallels between what’s going on right now and your research at all compelling?”

“Samantha, right now I couldn’t give a damn about the research. I have two young men who are scared out of their minds, who are multi-talented and possibly high-level sixes at that. I have the first potentially documentable telepath, and to make it more complicated, they didn’t grow into this, it just fell on them. No, I really couldn’t care less about the research.”

“Jeffrey,” Samantha spoke softly, attempting to calm the Justicar. “I know that you would always put them first, and if you are implying that I wouldn’t we are going to have a problem.”

Morgan sighed, wiping a hand across his eyes. “Of course I didn’t mean that, Samantha.”

“You are taking this all every personally.”

“I know.”

“You don’t think that’s a bad idea?”

“I don’t think I have a choice.”

Chapter Text

The initial attack took us completely off guard. The Republic existed for three millennia in complete peace and prosperity. Our military had no combat experience whatsoever, and for at least 2,000 years the presence of weapons on our cruisers often met with ridicule, the upper echelons of the military hierarchy often accused of paranoia. When the cannons of the alien ships opened fire, we lost three ships, 6,000 men and women in an instant. We were not prepared, and we have been trying to catch up ever since.

-- Interview with Praetor Holis Andres, as entrusted to Pontifex Jorj Larett in 3141 AT


They stood in the docking area, luggage in hand, waiting for their ship and their chaperons. Jared noted how tired Jensen looked. He knew he looked equally exhausted. The previous day erased whatever rest they had gotten in their stay in the infirmary. The disastrous morning left them shaken and scared. The afternoon and evening, spent with their friends, only worsened their fatigue. 

Tom and Erica once again offered their unwavering support, taking the near fatal events of the morning in stride. Neither of them coped particularly well with the news that Jared and Jensen would be leaving the Academy for an unknown period of time. Jared thought Tom was either going to cry or hit someone. Possibly both. Erica simply looked murderous.

The rest of their friends, however, weren’t dealing as well. Michael was strangely subdued. No jokes, no wiseass comments. He barely spoke. Chris hardly blinked the entire evening. Nazomi and Raidon just stared at both of them, as though they could solve this puzzle with enough concentration. The most disturbing for Jared was Alona’s reaction. She wouldn’t look at him, and made excuses to leave only an hour after arriving at their new quarters.

Ultimately, Jared and Jensen passed out on one bed, and Tom slept in the other bed, refusing to leave. When Erica left, Jensen joked that she had to go shoot something. Jared wasn’t sure it was a joke. Tom took their parting that morning hard. He held onto Jared, almost crushing him for several minutes. He even hugged Jensen, but ended with threats of violence against his person if anything should happen to Jared. Somehow, it only endeared him to Jensen. 

When the Justicar and Optia finally arrived, both young men were ready to fall asleep on their feet. However, the flight to Quel’Alta could only take a few minutes to cover the  four thousand kilometers between the Academy and the Ministry’s combat training compound. When the shuttle landed, the pair were startled by the large gathering of Adept troops standing in parade formation. They guessed around seven hundred men and women stood at attention for the Justicar’s arrival.

Ordering the two trainees to wait in the shuttle, Morgan stepped out onto the landing and dismissed the troops. He signaled over the compound commanding officer, ordering a clear and unobserved path for his party to their quarters.

Neither were prepared for the size of Quel’Alta. They had both felt the Academy was huge, but the compound had to be at least twice the size of the school. The coastal fortress stood on a wide plateau, and the complete lack of trees as far as the eye could see made them feel exposed and vulnerable. All of the buildings appeared to be interconnected, and the architecture, while not unattractive, looked forbidding and severe. No one would mistake the structures for anything other than a military base.

Jared and Jensen had time for a brief nap before starting whatever the Justicar had prepared for them. They were grateful, but couldn’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t be better off just getting it over with. Almost two hours after they landed, they were escorted to a massive room. Jensen thought it probably served as a docking bay when not pulling duty as a training room.

Jared guessed it to be five hundred meters long and wide, and at least one hundred meters tall. Thick training pads covered the floors, walls and ceilings. The huge blast doors that they entered through sat below a window to a type of control room. They could see the Justicar and Optia, along with two other people they did not recognize through the glass. A large block, probably of plastinium, sat less than twenty meters inside the door. Its presence puzzled them both. Before they could ask any questions, the Justicar’s voice carried through the room by some sort of hidden amplification, causing them to look up to the window.

“This is going to be a simple maximum test. Jensen, I want you to try and lift that block. Your goal is to move it as far as you can.”

Jensen looked at Jared as if to say, “Seriously?”. Jared just shrugged and they both turned to face Jensen’s task. The kinetic closed his eyes, finding his core, and tried to move the block.


Jensen tried again, and still nothing happened. Jared sensed his frustration. He looked up at the control room and asked for a minute before they continued.

“You okay?” he asked his friend, those wide green eyes looking back at him. 

Jensen let out a large breath, blowing his long bangs back from his face. 

Jared squeezed his shoulder. “Listen, no one is going to get hurt here, okay? You don’t have to be afraid.” 

Jensen nodded, still not looking convinced, but better than he had a minute before.

“Just open up and give it all you got. It’ll be fine.”

They turned back to face the large cube. Jensen closed his eyes, and tried again.

Jared watched the black object shudder, then lift slightly, less than an inch of space between it and the floor. He reached out along the connection between them, knowing Jensen still held back. He nudged, sending assurance and confidence to his friend.

The block surged up into the air, several meters of empty space below it. Jensen pushed, and the thing flew back toward the far wall, moving in what had to be an excess of two hundred kilometers per hour. 

Jensen grinned wide and bright at Jared, but a sound pulled his attention back. The block hit the back wall, but reflexor shields pushed it back at the two young men. The heavy object moving toward Jared at frightening speed.

Jensen screamed, “Jared!” and lashed out at the cube with all of his power. It shattered into pieces too small and numerous to count, a few slight meters in front of them.

When Morgan and Samantha ran through the blast doors, they found Jensen wrapped around Jared, his back prone to the trajectory of the block. When Samantha tried to approach them, a shield pushed her back. Morgan tried kinetically forcing the shield, with zero effect. 

Empathy, telekinesis, even yelling couldn’t permeate the barrier between them and the two men, still clutching to each other, froze in place.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Morgan said, as he traced the edge of the shield with his finger, watching in fascination as the invisible surface rippled, distorting the air like the disturbed surface of placid water. The small waves continued along the shield surface until they dissipated altogether. 

“How the hell do we get them out of there,” Samantha asked, far less intrigued than her superior.

“I have no idea,” he said, the wonder heavy in his voice. He saw Jared's eyelashes flutter, then open, those unmistakable hazel eyes clouded with confusion. When he saw the Justicar, the tension in his frame dissolved. 

Jensen moved next, his head pulling back to look at Jared. He lifted his right hand, holding Jared's cheek. Morgan couldn’t hear what they said to each other, but it didn’t take much imagination to figure it out. When Jensen turned toward him, his handsome face twisted in fury, the young man was obviously yelling, but Morgan couldn’t hear him. He gestured toward his ears and shook his head, then thumped the surface of the shield.

Two sets of wide eyes stared back at him. Finally, the barrier collapsed.

“Are you two alright?” he asked them.

Jensen went off like a bomb.

“What the hell was that? A reflexive shield? You didn’t think to mention that the far wall, my fucking target, was shielded? Jared was almost killed. Goddammit!”

The room began to quake ominously. Jared reached out, grabbing Jensen’s arm, blasting him with projected tranquility, assuring him he was fine. Jensen was breathing hard and ragged. His reddened face radiating fury, but the quaking lessened and then stopped.

Morgan turned to the Optia. “Escort them to their quarters.” A violent tremor rocked the floor, and the older man turned to Jensen. Pouring every ounce of his authority into his voice, he bellowed.

“Decurion Ackles, stand down!” For a moment, he feared for his life, the rage in the young man’s eyes focused completely on him. The floor stopped moving, and he stepped forward, his tone much softer. “Jensen, I need a few minutes here, and I will meet you at your quarters. I’ll explain everything. There’s a lot here you don’t understand.”

Jensen nodded tersely, turned on his heel and marched out of the room, Jared and Samantha trailing in his wake.


Jared sat on the neatly made bed, back propped up against the headboard, long legs sprawled out in front him, watching his friend prowl back and forth, like a large, caged cat. Jensen bristled with tension and anger, and Jared could find no means to calm him. In fact, the connection between began to bleed Jensen’s frustration into Jared's mind. 

He had had enough.

“Jensen!” he yelled. “Sit down, or I will lay you out!”

Wide green eyes looked at him, flooded with shock at the normally quiet man’s outburst. Jensen’s taut frame sagged visibly, shuffling steps leading him to set down beside Jared. He plopped down on the bed, blowing out a loud breath of air.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. 

Jared smiled to himself and reached for the hand brushing his own. “I’m alright, you know,” he said, trying to reassure his friend. “And if you would calm down a little bit you would remember that the Justicar is not out to get either one of us. He has an entire Ministry to run, a war to oversee, and he’s pushed all of that aside to help us. Why would he do something to deliberately get either one of us hurt or even killed?”

Jensen nodded. “I know. It’s just,” he rubbed a hand down his tired features. “I almost killed you.”

This, thought Jared, was the crux. In less than a week, Jensen had caused more destruction than he cared to think about, and putting Jared in peril had been the proverbial straw. Jared's head fell back, gently knocking against the wall. 

“Did you do it on purpose?”

Jensen’s golden-colored head shot up, eyes fixed on Jared's in horror. “Of course not,” he blurted. “Why would you even think that?”

“I don’t, but the way you are acting, I can’t help but wonder if you do.”

Optia Ferris watched this exchange with intense curiosity, trying to get a grasp on the dynamic between to young men, who in the span of less than two weeks had become critically important. She marveled at the way they interacted with each other, the subtle touches, precisely chosen words. She had seen many Adepts fall in love in her tenure at the Academy. Part of her wanted to believe she was seeing just that, but too many things didn’t add up. She could detect no indication that the pair engaged in intercourse. To the contrary, she could find none of the signs of that type of intimacy. Instead, it appeared more as though the two distinctly different personalities were subtly merging.

She had no idea what to do with that observation.

“I am just so tired of this,” Jensen confessed quietly. “Even right after I first manifested, I was never this out of control. I feel like I’m riding on a whirlwind and my grip is failing.”

Jared's thumb rubbed the back of his hand soothingly. “I feel like every time I lose control, someone gets hurt, and you have to swoop in and fix the mess,” he continued. “But what happens when the mistake is too big? When someone dies because I can’t contain this?”

“Jensen, why do you think you are here?” Ferris interrupted. Both young men looked over toward her. “We know how frightening this is for both of you, and believe me, we clearly see the magnitude of the changes you two have been forced through in a very short period of time. I need you both to stop and consider that no one, not the most well-trained or powerful Adept, could handle this so soon. You have to give yourselves time, and you have to trust us to find the best ways to help you cope without endangering yourselves or others.”

She could immediately sense Jensen tense, a flare of anger in his clear eyes. “And you have to allow us to make a few mistakes, as well,” she continued. “We are trying to do our best by both of you. None of us knows fully how to deal with all of this, but just like you, we are trying.”

Jensen nodded, dropping his gaze to where his and Jared's hands joined. He allowed himself the luxury of throwing open the bond between them, and sinking into it, reveling in the peace and acceptance there. The pull of sleep had almost claimed him when the door chime sounded. 

A tall, handsome woman entered. “I am MedTech Lora Falco. Would you please come with me?” She spoke with easy authority, turning to leave the room before either man could voice a question or protest. They glanced at each other bemusedly and stood to follow. 


The smoldering panel, the ruined remains of the reflexor generator control system, mocked the Justicar. Whatever happened in this room should not be possible, and yet, he had seen it with his own eyes. 

The tech gestured to a holodisplay of the sensor logs, a graph, flat with three sharp peaks, each successively taller than the last. Pointing to the first peak, the young man explained “This is the first successful attempt to lift the object. The power output is beyond anything we’ve ever seen. The second is the actual throw itself, at least 100 times stronger than the first spike. And this last one,” the man paused, closing his eyes and rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Sir, this isn’t even on the scale. The sensors can’t fully register it. We have no idea how much power it took to shatter the block.”

Morgan looked out of the window down onto the impromptu training room. A small team of forensic analysts scanning the walls and floors and ceilings. He doubted their findings would make things any clearer.

He turned to the tech. “Get a theoretical physicist up here.” He left the control room, down a flight of stairs until he stood at the place where things had flown violently out of control. One of the forensic team approached him.

“Sir, what the hell happened here?” a woman, only a few years younger than himself, kept staring back and forth between him and the scanner in her hand.

“I can’t go into the details at the moment. What have you found?”

“So far? Tens of thousands of small shards of high-density plastinium, lodged a meter or  more into the blast walls. We have hundreds of reflexor nodes completely burned up. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Morgan nodded, surveying the room, few visible traces of the extraordinary destruction that took place here. “Is the room structurally sound?”

“As far as we can tell, yes, sir. However, I don’t know how anyone can extract the shards.”

He heard that blast door open behind him. A short, pale man, with large bright eyes and a slightly slumped posture entered his field of vision, immediately standing straight and saluting. The Justicar returned the salute and set the man at ease.

“I have theoretical problem for you,” he said. “How much force is required to shatter a block of plastinium HD?”

The physicist looked at him as though he had clearly lost his mind. “How large a block, sir.”

“That is where it gets complicated.”

Chapter Text

The first encounter between silicates and Adepts happened by complete accident. A level three full empath, assigned to an infantry unit not because of his abilities but because of his marksmanship, mentally lashed out an alien unit that had successfully cut him and his men off from the primary Republican force. Our energy weapons proved highly ineffective against the silicates, and this small band of five soldiers would likely never make it home in their current condition. The Adept projected fear and horror and watched, dumbfounded, as the aliens curled up on themselves and literally died. We are no closer to understanding why the psionic gifts work so effectively against them. But that advantage has held the front all this time. 

-- Interview with Justicar Psionica Elena Talbot, as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3130 AT


Jared and Jensen followed the MedTech through winding corridors, finally reaching the base’s massive infirmary wing. It appeared to contain multiple floors, as many as seven from what they could tell. The entire complex centered around a huge atrium, sealed in glastinium walls and ceiling. The lush vegetation within contrasted sharply with the desolate land surrounding the base. Their guide wove through doors and hallways, some with wide views of the atrium, others completely isolated behind solid walls. 

Finally, she showed them to an examination room, and a small team of orderlies swarmed around them, registering every statistic they could think of, and some, Jared suspected, that didn’t exist. When the exam appeared to be finished to her satisfaction, she led the boys to a far wing of the infirmary, several floors up from the examination room. 

She stopped, registering her biometrics with a locking mechanism, and double doors slid silently away revealing a large room, similar to the one they had been in previously. A solitary bed set in the center, a man lying unconscious on it, covered to his naked chest by the sheet. Behind him, a holodisplay showed a sea of data that Jared could only barely make heads or tails of. What he could discern told him this man would not be alive without the artificial support of the machines in this room.

Falco turned to him. “Heal him.”

Jared shook his head. “We can’t heal the mortally wounded,” he said, realizing too late that he had quoted one of his texts from Academy.

“Heal him as well as you can. We just want to see your ability in action.”

Jared felt Jensen’s displeasure at the situation. He felt it just as acutely. The idea of dying man used as a lab rat to test his talent made him nauseous. He felt Optia Ferris move up behind him. Her hand rested gently on his shoulder. She softly said, “That’s an order, Decurion.” Somehow, she managed to convey an understanding for his distaste, yet shore him up to perform his task.

He approached the still form on the bed, closing his eyes, and allowing the energy to flow through him and into the broken body in front of him. In his mind’s eye, he watched the tendrils of power pour into the patient, and disappearing into his grave injuries. No part of him was truly healing, there just wasn’t enough power. He opened his eyes, fighting back tears of frustration and anger. He knew without anyone telling him this man had been brought back from the front in this condition, that he would die, and no one could help him.

He felt Jensen’s hand on his arm. He looked over at his friend, seeing sea green pools of compassion and concern. The connection between them opened wider, and he lost himself for a moment in the comfort of it.

He closed his eyes again, finding his core, and opening the hidden channels within himself that would allow energy to flow. Amazed and terrified, he watched wide, shimmering tendrils shoot out of his hands, arcing into the broken body, filling up every wound. Several torrents moved through the walls to destinations unknown, some shooting into the floor, arcs of power crawling along the edge of the room, which now seemed blindingly bright with the white bolts.

The shrill, piercing sounds of multiple alarms snapped him out of his trance, the internal channels closing. Sounds of shouting voices in the hallway pulsated in volume as the doors opened and closed. When he opened his eyes, he saw five strangers surrounding his patient. He looked at Jensen, panic rising within him, surprised when he was grabbed in a bone crushing embrace.

“You saved him, Jay,” Jensen whispered against his neck. “You healed him.” The wonder and awe in his voice caused Jared to blush bright red. The moment shattered when an orderly roughly pushed them out of the way. Optia Ferris motioned for them to follow her out into the hallway. More alarms echoed down the corridor, Medics scurrying in and out of doors. 

Jared shrank in on himself, terrified of what he had done. Jen grabbed his hand and dragged him away from the chaos toward the glastinium wall fifty meters or so away. The climate system in the atrium poured down heavy rain, but what they saw through the dense haze stole their breath away.

Trees grew perceptibly upward. Vines spiraled up their trunks, along the walls, flower bursting into bloom in vibrant explosions of color. Jared felt as though he was watching a time-lapse holovid of a jungle, months of growth compressed into minutes. 

Jensen’s hand squeezed his. In his mind, he could hear Jared’s voice, swelling with pride. “You did this.”


The meal they had eaten in the quiet privacy of their quarters sat uneasy in their stomachs. The door to the Justicar’s office loomed closer and closer in front of them with each step. They felt certain that when they walked through it, things would change for them irrevocably.

They recognized the fallacy behind the notion, but the knowledge did nothing to ease their frazzled nerves. Whatever had seized ahold of them had shown itself today to be far larger and more powerful than either of them had ever guessed. To address it, whatever it was, to name it and call it into the light, would make it real, inescapable. With a last frightened glance at each other, the two men squared the shoulders and walked through the door.

The Justicar’s office at Quel’Alta dwarfed the one he had at the Academy. One area held his desk and two chairs in front of it. Another contained a sitting area with two large couches facing each other, a long table between, and two armchairs flanking them. Finally, a long, wide conference table that could seat at least twelve rounded out the space. The entire room flooded with bright daylight pouring in from the floor to ceiling windows, stretching wall to wall, framing a breathtaking view of the shore and endless ocean beyond.

Morgan and Ferris sat facing the door on one of the sofas. They both looked up as the two men entered, the Justicar gesturing for them to take a seat on the couch opposite the seated figures. 

Jared and Jensen walked toward them, sitting down slowly, carefully, as if waiting to be punished. The sight constricted Jeffrey’s chest, a tightening around his heart.

“I understand you had an eventful afternoon in the infirmary,” he smiled, trying to lighten the mood. Jared's pinched expression exposed the failure of his attempt. “Son, you should know that 28 terminally ill or injured Adepts got their lives back today.” The chestnut head shot up, hazel eyes wide with surprise. “You saved 28 people, people that our best Medics and Techs had given up on. The Republic owes you a great debt.”

Jared saw Jensen’s blinding smile in his peripheral vision. He just couldn’t figure out what to make of this news.

“I’ve been the Justicar Psionica for over a decade now. I had thought nothing could surprise me anymore. Thankfully, you two keep me astounded on a consistent basis.” The boys smiled in spite of themselves. “And Jensen, I need to explain some things about this morning to you.’

Jensen sat up straighter, but his face shown only wariness.

“Son, the block we asked you to move, you shouldn’t have been able to budge. We chose that room because of the sensors built into it. They can read the slightest fluctuations in weight and pressure. We expected you to exert enough force on the block to register on the sensors. It was never supposed to move.”

“I don’t understand, sir,” Jensen said.

“That block was a thousand tons of high-density plastinium. We had to bring in industrial lifts just to get it into position. No Adept can move that, not even close. The heaviest weight a Kinetic has ever moved is 82 tons, and he only managed to elevate it 2 centimeters before it crashed back down. No one thought to shut off the reflexor shield generators, because, well, what happened this morning should be impossible.

“Jensen, you lifted 1,034 tons 2.3 meters into the air, and hurled it 430 meters at a velocity of 384 kilometers per hour. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have dismissed the entire thing as a farce. But not only did you do that, I have a theoretical physicist calculating how much force is required to shatter that block of plastinium into shards no larger than a centimeter wide, and then propel those shards with such velocity they short out six industrial reflexor shield generators, and then embed an average of 1.2 meters into high-density blast walls.

“He’s been working on it for six hours, and I don’t know if he will ever be able to give me an answer.”

The Justicar stopped, allowing this deluge of information to sink in. Jared and Jensen looked shell-shocked. 

“Unfortunately, our sensors couldn’t even register the shield wrapped around the two of you, and I have never seen anything like it. As for the situation in the infirmary complex, you have the best Medics in the Republic completely confused. To heal any of those patients defies what we know of medikinesis, but the impossible growth in the atrium? No Adept has ever manifested biokinesis.”

The Justicar looked at the Optia, and she began to speak.

“I noticed something both this morning and afternoon,” she began. “In both situations, you would try the task, then stop. You would look at each other, and then try again, to phenomenal effect. Can you describe for us what happened in those in between moments?”

“We could feel the other one struggling,” Jared explained. “And we would just open the connection between us, and then, well, you saw the rest.”

“Apparently, without the support of the other, they are still very powerful, possibly as high as level eights,” Ferris addressed the Justicar. “But when they connect, I don’t know that we can even measure it.”

“Does the connection explain the empathy?” Jensen asked. “Or the other gifts, the telepathy, the biokinesis, the other stuff?”

The officers exchanged cryptic and dark glances. Jensen watched as arguments for and against some unknown proposition flittered through his commander’s mind. Having reached some conclusion, the older man settled back into his chair, drawing in a deep breath.

“Do either of you know what I did at the Academy? Before,” he waved his hand, as if to take in the office, the compound, the trappings that came with being the Justicar Psionica. “All of this?”

Jared answered for them. “You headed up the history department at the Academy. Some mention was made that you would become the first Adept Pontifex.”

“You are right,” Morgan said. “On both counts. I studied with Pontifex Sryon Toliver, for five years before my first tour.”

“Isn’t Toliver the specialist on psionic lore?” Jen asked.

“One of his specialties, yes. In my time at the Collegium, I worked with Sryon on a theory of mine, trying to support it through the ancient texts. I had come across several suspect cases, three to be exact, in three different eras in three different and unrelated cultures. Each account involved two people, usually males, who exhibited extraordinary abilities, but only after they had met. From what I could gather from the texts, the pairs never separated after that initial meeting.

“I suspected that I had discovered a new and very unusual psionic talent. I called them ‘bonded pairs.’ In all, I found nine pairs in history that matched the pattern: exceptional abilities after meeting, the two rarely if ever parting after the initial encounter. I suspect that given time I would find more, and I have my suspicions about others, but five years is far too little time for this type of review.”

“And you think we are one of these bonded pairs?” Jared asked.

“Honestly, I don’t know for certain. The biggest problem I had in my research was that all accounts disappeared late in the third era. We have no record of anything like that in the fourth or current eras.”

“Until now,” Jensen added. 

“Son, so much of what I found could only be described as apocryphal. I can’t say for certain, but yes, I believe that you are.”

“So, what does that mean?” Jared asked. “I mean for us?”

“I can’t answer that, son. Dealing with documents millennia upon millennia old didn’t give me a crystal clear picture of what to expect. All I know to do is make certain you are never separated. I think we’ve seen that doesn’t go well. The other is more difficult. Your abilities have shot off the scale. We have no clue how strong either of you are, but we need to find a way to train you to use those talents.”

“Some of your abilities we’ve never even seen before,” Ferris interrupted. “We have no rule book, no curriculum to teach you how to use telepathy, how to strategically cause plants to grow at highly accelerated rates. You can apparently shield in ways no shielder has before. Its possible new talents will emerge.”

The boys looked unsettled at this perspective.

“I wish I could tell you we know exactly what we are doing here, but the truth is, we just don’t,” Morgan continued. “But we are trying. You will return to the Academy to complete your education, and we will try to find ways to help you explore and master your powers.”

Jared and Jensen visibly straightened at the news they could return to their friends, to their home for the past decade. 

“Before we send you back, I’m ordering you to take two weeks to rest, to work together to cope with all of the changes you are going through. You will leave in the morning. A shuttle will take you to a small town about 500 kilometers north of the Academy. You will stay at a cabin there. Its well isolated, but you can easily walk to the town for anything you need.” the Justicar picked up two large wallets, looking quickly in each before handing them to boys. “Your Identification chips, passcards to the house.”

The two young men rifled through the items they had been given. 

“This house is my personal residence, and I’m trusting that you will leave it in as good condition as you found it. That and that you rest are my only requirements. If you want to invite your friends or family to come visit, that’s acceptable. If anything, and I mean anything, unusual occurs, use your emergency coms. That’s an order. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” they answered in unison. 

“The Optia and I will be checking on you periodically, but not too often,” he smiled wryly at them. “Take this time for yourselves, because the hard work starts after this.”

As he watched their retreating backs disappear through the door, he hoped he made the right decision.

“Don’t doubt this decision, Jeffrey,” Samantha said. “It’s the best possible course.”

With that she stood and left.

Morgan turned on his communicator, waiting for the chime informing him that the signal had connected.

“Loretta,” he began. “I am sending two very special young men to you. They don’t know it yet, but they need you.”

Chapter Text

This war has cost us all. The Republic has lost millions of her sons and daughters, and we are no closer to understanding why than when the aliens fired the first shot over twenty years ago. We have no means of communicating with them, of understanding them. We just fight, do our best to hold the line, and pray that one day we either break them or they give us up as a lost cause. For all that we do not know, we know to a certainty we must fight. Regardless of all we have lost, we must fight. To do otherwise would cost us everything.

-- Transcript of Media interview with Praetor Holis Andres, as entrusted to Journalist Jjon Kent in 3130 AT


Silken strands of grass tickled the back of his neck. Jared couldn’t repress a small smile as he nestled further down into the undergrowth, the golden sunlight warming him through. He did not remember a time when he so enjoyed basking in the sun, but now, it felt like the rays recharged and revitalized him. The gossamer thread that bound he and Jensen together hummed, as his counterpart chuckled at Jared's exploits. With Jensen still inside the cabin, there was no way he could actually hear his friend, but he could feel it. 

He smiled even brighter.

Though only separated by a few dozen meters, not having Jensen within touching distance felt odd. Not uncomfortable, but slightly unpleasant, like a phantom itch in the back of his mind. He pushed the sensation away and set about soaking up as much sunlight as he could.

He hadn’t realized he had dozed until a shadow fell over him. He cracked open his eyes slightly, smirking up at Jensen. He had only recently seen Jensen smile, the wide, bright smile that caused the crow’s feet at the corner of his eyes to crinkle up. The first time Jared had called it “adorable,” Jensen had tackled him. They wrestled around the floor, until Jared was well and truly pinned, a retraction forced out of him as he laughed uncontrollably. 

Even though Jensen stood in shadow, Jared could clearly see the wide smile on his face as he extended a hand to help lift him up off the forest floor. 

“You hungry?” Jensen asked him.

Jared knew this game. If he said yes, he would get roped into helping cook. If he could hold out long enough, Jensen would get hungry enough to cook for both of him. The discovery of Jensen’s culinary skills surprised the hell out of Jared, but he was not going to complain. 

Before Jared could answer, his stomach growled loudly. Jensen threw his head back and laughed, wild and free. Jared shoved him, the smirk he wore belying any heat in the gesture. In the four days since they arrived at the cabin, they had learned a great deal about each other and the connection between them. The single thing they both struggled to accept, or even remember, was that they really had no secrets from each other.

He could tell that Jensen had completely seen through his plan to get out of helping in the kitchen, and had found no small amount of amusement in that. Jensen threw his arm across Jared's shoulders, and they turned to head into the house.

The cabin could only be described as idyllic. Made of timber and stone, bright and airy, with large windows offering 360-degree views of the mountains, forests and the lake off the back yard, the two young men refused to even think of leaving their perfect sanctuary. The neighboring town, a kilometer away, consisted of one street, small shops lining both sides and offering virtually everything the town’s small population could need. Off the primary street, homes for the residents and lodges for the tourists fanned out from the thoroughfare. A spacious port formed the northern boundary of the town, complete with every modern convenience, it had been dressed to be as rustic looking as the rest of the town. Freighters arrived once a week, and other than the trucks hauling goods to the stores on Tuesday mornings, no other motorized traffic was allowed. 

The town rested in the bottom of a deep valley, surrounded on all sides by the highest and largest mountains on Lyrae. Five peaks, rising thousands of meters above the timberline. Even in the height of summer, they glistened in snow-covered glory. Rich, dense coniferous forest carpeted the valley floor. The arid climate made for wild swings in temperature: warm in the afternoons and freezing at night. Even in early autumn, they would wake to frost covered windows, the trees and undergrowth glistening silver until the sun melted it all away. From lunch until dusk, they wore just their utilities, but once the mountains blocked the dying daylight, they pulled on heavy coats when they ventured outdoors.

Jared and Jensen had uncovered very little of the town’s history. It had been named Ouray after a small mountain town back on Terra. They could not tell if the buildings were new or very old, if the people had lived here all of their lives, descended from the original founding families, or if they were in fact the founders themselves. The entire resident populace knew each other, and well. They operated like a giant extended family, and immediately adopted the two young men without question or hesitation. The unconditional acceptance they had wrapped the pair in left both Adepts almost breathless. 

The manifestation of their new abilities had, in effect, isolated them. Their friends had no idea how to act around them, and they had spent most of the time sequestered away from everyone they had known. The denizens of Ouray just embraced them, drawing them into their homes and lives. More often than not, they found themselves wandering into town for dinner at someone’s home, an unending flow of invitations to allow the women, in particular, to fuss over the two nice young men who were “entirely too thin,” and “in desperate need of a home-cooked meal.”

As the they made their way into the cabin and its well appointed kitchen, the bright afternoon light filled the house with warmth. Jared pulled items from the cooler, and set about the tasks that required less skill. Jensen, wielding a large and frightening looking knife, expertly sliced through an array of fresh vegetables, tossing them into various pots that Jared tended to. Already the rich aroma sharpened Jared’s hunger.

“Five units of cooking at the Academy, huh?”

Jensen smiled as the sharp, quick rhythm of the knife hitting the cutting board filled the kitchen. “And a bit of extra credit work.”

“You realize this completely destroys whatever image I had of you,” Jared teased. “The lone wolf. The cold, foreboding, and unapproachable Jensen Ackles. The man, the myth, the legend, the cook. See? It just doesn’t flow.”

Jensen threw his head back and laughed. “I suppose not.”

Without either of them realizing it, they settled into a graceful, subconscious, complex choreography. Moving around and with each other in the kitchen, handing off what the other needed before being asked. Before long, they felt an increasingly familiar presence walking toward the cabin.

Loretta Divine barreled into their lives with the force of a high level hurricane. She barely came up to the middle of their chests, a small, sturdy woman with dancing brown eyes and chocolate brown skin. On their first meeting, they had barely gotten out a greeting before she herded them to a table in her restaurant and proceeded to stuff them with luscious foods from her kitchen. She treated them with equal parts doting indulgence and a stern, no nonsense hand. At the local market, when Jensen kept piling his selections into Jared's arms to carry, while he himself remained empty-handed, Jared almost dropped everything when Loretta stormed up to Jensen, thwacked him in the back of the head and told him to quit treating his friend like a pack animal. The absolutely flummoxed expression on Jensen’s face had Jared chuckling for a solid hour.

Jensen continued his strange alchemy in the kitchen while Jared answered the knock at the door. Loretta hadn’t managed a “hello” before he had wrapped her up in a warm hug. She fussed at him, alternately patting him and pushing him away, as though the display did not please her greatly. 

“Jared Padalecki, you rascal! Let me go this instant.” He loved when she played coy, but more than that he adored the musical quality of her voice. Somehow every word she uttered lilted like a song, and at the moment, the song told of amusement, fondness, and playfulness. 

He showed her into the kitchen, where Jensen looked up from his cooking to smile brightly at the little powerhouse. He wiped his hands on a towel, and swooped her up in a tight hug, her feet dangling a foot above the ground. She squealed and swatted at him, demanding in between peals of laughter for him to put her down that instant. He finally relented and placed a gentle kiss on top of her head.

“If you mess up my hair, I will beat you with that spoon, Jensen Ackles!” She exclaimed, any pretend heat in her words utterly betrayed by the wide grin she sported. She adored these boys, and that they returned her affection delighted her.

She made her way around the kitchen, nosily peeking into pots, and watching Jensen’s movements with a sharp and appraising eye. She nabbed a spoon and tasted the sauce, a small smile and a playful glint in her eyes. “Didn’t they teach you to use salt at that school of yours?”

Jared chuckled, and Jensen pretended to be mortally wounded at her criticism. He held up the charade for only a few seconds before bending down to kiss her noisily on her cheek.

“Fresh!” she protested, and then playfully swatted him with a towel. She turned and looked at Jared, noticing the mischievous glint in his eyes. “And don’t you even think about it , young man! You are supposed to be the well-behaved one!”

Jensen never looked up but the tone of his voice declared that a smile basically split his features. “That makes me the bad boy!”

A loud “Hey!” rang out as Loretta hit him again with the towel. 

Jared moved to Jensen’s side, still grinning. “What do we owe this visit to, Ms. Loretta?”

“Well, I needed to make sure that Jen wasn’t poisoning you with his cooking,” she answered, ignoring the huff Jensen made at her accusation. “And do I need a reason to come visit my boys?”

Jensen and Jared looked at each other and smiled. In unison, they answered “Yes.”

Loretta crossed her arms and attempted to level her best evil eye on them, but failed miserably as they stared at her like two over-eager puppies. 

“Fine,” she grumbled. “Ella is having one of her get-togethers this evening, and everyone wants you two to be there.

The two young men just looked at each other for a brief moment then turned to her with matching bright smiles and said, “Sure!”

Loretta struggled with these two. They had captured her heart within a few minutes of meeting them. Both extraordinarily beautiful, quick-witted, kind, generous, she fought every instinct within her not to mother them constantly. She sensed the confusion in them, the fear. That they faced something larger than most people in the Republic would ever have to grapple with. She suspected they would rise admirably to the challenge.

But as they stood here, in this kitchen, away from the pressures of civilization, bathed in early afternoon sunlight, looking luminous and God, so young, it felt like a fist had closed around her heart. They were Adepts, and by what she could gather, dizzyingly powerful ones. All that separated them from the front line was time. The thought of them in harms way, a breath away from the grave, made her physically ill. She knew that even if they survived, what they would see, what they would go through would change them, and not for the better. She desperately wanted to hide them away, shelter them from the atrocities of war, allow them to be happy and whole and to grow old without memories of horrors unspeakable.

Nothing she could do would divert them from the path they had to walk.

Jared, in her experience the gentler of the pair, moved in close beside her, as though to remind her he was still there, in that kitchen, unmarred by a war. She smiled at him, thoughtful and true. They continued to work finishing up lunch and the three of them eating their full at the dining room table. 

She made her way out, reminding them to be at the community center by 1900 hours, graciously accepting pecks on each cheek from the pair. 



The kitchen cleaned, the house set to rights, Jared and Jensen lounged out on the thick grass behind the cabin, soaking up the sun and the company.

“Do you think about it?” Jared asked. “The war, I mean?”

Lying with one hand tucked behind his head and the other idly rubbing blades of grass together between his fingers, Jensen didn’t answer immediately. Finally , he said, “Used to. Every day pretty much.”

He could feel Jared’s curiosity, so he continued , “I put in for early appointment at the beginning of term. The Justicar denied my request, told me that I had some growing up to do before I went to the front.”

They lay in silence for a while, Jensen sensing Jared's concern. He rolled over onto his side, facing the younger man, and propped his head up in his hand. 

“I think I had it all wrong, man,” he began, softly. “I wanted to get out there and start doing all the stuff I’ve been trained to do. Most people who spend twelve years in the Academy graduate by now, but since I started so early, I’ve got three more years it looks like. When the Justicar denied my request, he told me somethings, about how horrible the war really is, about how I wanted to get out there for all the wrong reasons, and that I would end up in psych or the morgue. I guess I finally figured out that he’s right.”

“What reasons?” Jared asked so quietly that Jensen almost didn’t hear him. “Why did you want to go to the front?”

Jensen wouldn’t meet his eyes, just ducked his head down and continued to fiddled with the grass. “I wanted to be a six.”

“Like a level six?”

“Yeah. When they first tested me and told me I was a five and a high one at that, I just kind of got obsessed with being a six.”

“I don’t understand.”

Jensen sighed , “There’s never been a six, you know? And to be the first, no matter what else I did or didn’t do or screwed up or whatever, history has to remember that.”

“Jen? Why do you think you are going to screw up?”

It took several long minutes before Jensen could answer, and Jared could feel wave after wave of emotions wash over them both. Feelings of worthlessness, hunger for approval, need to escape, to do more to be more. The onslaught left him dizzy and very upset. Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed Jensen’s hand, the mobile fingers freezing, blades of grass still clenched between them.

“Who did this to you, Jen? Tell me.” He had tried to make his words gentle, but he feared that came across as angry. He almost laughed at himself because Jensen would have felt all of it anyway.

“Jared, it's not one thing or person or event, or anything like that. My parents were, are, very strict, but nothing abusive or anything. Even as a little kid , I just knew that I couldn’t be trapped in that town. Everyone we knew, including my folks, they all had dreams to go and do and be and none of them came true. They were all stuck, working farms or ranches. I didn’t want to be stuck there. I knew I didn’t belong there and I had to get out. 

“The first time I ran away I was like seven, I think.” Jensen laughed, looking straight into Jared's eyes for the first time since his confession began. “I was going to see you.”

Jared smiled back, bright and warm, so much light and love in his eyes. Jensen could feel the fondness, the richness of emotion between them. 

“Of course, my dad found me. I guess my folks just chalked it up to childhood folly. But the second time, I was eight, and I was adamant. I don’t remember everything, but I remember feeling angry and frightened and trapped and desperate to get the hell out of there . I fought with both of them, kicking and screaming. When the finally got me calmed down, Dad came down hard. No more play time, no more imaginary friends. That’s when I lost you, or started to lose you I guess. I hated him for that. I might still hate him for that, I don’t really know.

“When I manifested, I was 10. We were working. I don’t even remember on what, I just know that I’d never been more angry. It was Dad I was mad at. Furious. Before I even knew what was happening, the hover cart behind him flew up into the air and slammed into the wall of one of the stables. I knew I had done it, didn’t know how, but I knew it was me. 

Jensen stopped, dropping his gaze again. He turned his hand over, underneath Jared's, and wove their fingers together, squeezing tight. He felt a comforting squeeze in return. 

“He was scared of me, Jared. Terrified. It took the scouts two days to get to us, and he wouldn’t come near me.” 

Jared's heart was breaking at the pain radiating off his friend.

When Jensen spoke again, he only whispered, “And I liked it. I liked it that he was afraid and I wasn't for a change. I remember lording it over both my parents that I was leaving that dead end planet. That I was gonna be somebody important, and do things more important than they could ever dream about.”

Jared released Jensen’s hand, reaching up to his face and wiping away the tears there with the pad of his thumb. 

Jensen tried to smile at him and returned the favor. “I was horrible to them, Jared, but all I could think about was being more, better. Somewhere along the way, it became the obsession of being a six.”

“But you don’t feel that way anymore?”

Jensen shook his head, the ghost of a smile through his tears. “No, Jared, I really don’t. I had it all wrong, man. All of it. My folks, they were trying to do the best they knew how, but at the time, all I could think was that they were taking you away from me. And when you were gone, all I had left was pain and anger. I mean, how the hell could they have known? We didn’t even know until a month ago. All they saw was a little kid who was trying to run away from home to get to his imaginary best friend. No wonder they freaked.”

“So you don’t want to get to the front right away?”

“No. No. Everything is better now, well at least for me, for us. All the things I thought I needed, had to have to make it, all the things I thought I had to be, I don’t need them anymore. You know?”

“Yeah, man. I know.” Jared gently pulled Jensen to him, resting his head on his chest, and letting his friend wrap around him, an assurance he was there, they both were, and neither would be going anywhere without the other again. He gently carded his fingers through Jensen’s soft hair, feeling the tension and torment drain out of him.

“I tried to run away, too,” Jared said.

Jensen angled his head up to look at his friend. “Really?”

Jared nodded, and Jensen lay his head back down to press his ear to Jared's chest, listening to the strong heartbeat underneath. 

“I was six, so it may have been the same time you did. Some of those memories from my childhood are coming back now. I guess I blocked them, or convinced myself you never existed. I don’t really know, but I can remember packing some clothes and my teddy bear and heading out to find you.

“One of the older ladies in our neighborhood found me. I told her I was going away, and she asked me to come inside for a minute. Told me that I would need cookies for such a long trip. In my defense, she made really good cookies.”

The rumble of Jensen’s laugh vibrating through his chest felt good in a way he could not describe.

“While I was munching away, she called my mom. She found me and Teddy telling Ms. Shuester about all the adventures we were gonna have when we found you. I guess it wasn’t very long after that when I lost you.

“I was so young that I guess it was easier to chalk it up to my overactive imagination, but I don’t think I was the same after that. I think I got quieter, more withdrawn. I didn’t really have any close friends until my second year at the Academy. Tom found me and never let go. He thinks he’s my bodyguard, so that will be really interesting when we get back.”

Jensen’s only reply was a slight tightening of the hold he had around Jared's torso. 

“I don’t think I ever really hated my parents, but I know that Mom complains a lot that I am so distant, has done for as long as I can remember. I don’t understand why all of this has happened. I don’t know why we are connected like this, but I am glad.”

Jensen looked up at him again, the question clear in his eyes.

“Yeah, I am really glad. I wish that we hadn’t been ripped apart for a decade. I wish that we had really had the chance to grow up together, but I don’t regret this. Now.”

After Jensen had settled once again, he said, “You changed me. You changed how I saw the war. At Quel’Alta, when you were trying to heal that man, I felt what you felt. That you would have to try and heal a lot more like him, torn apart at the front, and shipped back, probably to die. I know this war is important. Hell, I know that none of us have a choice, but I don’t like the idea that either one of us could die. That our friends might die. There is so much to lose, and I was so selfish before that I didn’t see it.”

Jared kept combing through Jensen’s hair with his fingers, his chest tightening from powerful shared emotions. 

Jensen spoke for both of them. “I see it now.”

Chapter Text

The ecological terror that ended the third age lingers with every citizen of the Republic to this day. We work diligently to imprint those last 100 years on the minds of every man, woman and child. We want them to remember the water wars, the food riots, the billions of lives lost when the oceans claimed the most populous areas, when survival became so desperate that previously civilized nations turned on one another, when man made weapons filled the sky with ash and radioactive matter. We want them to remember the lifeless wasteland our species turned the once vibrant, verdant, beautiful Terra into, when we were forced away from our cradle and out among the stars. Because if we remember, we will not repeat the same catastrophic mistakes of our ancestors. We will value, love and cherish the glory of nature around us, and not be the tools of its destruction.

— Diary excerpt from Justicar Conservator Mishuhara Ito as entrusted to Pontifex Gaius Johannsen in 2570 AT.


Ella Holliway ran the general store in Ouray, the source for vital supplies and the heart of the community. Her husband, Max, helped at the store and also served as the town’s engineering guru. He kept the towns peoples' homes, machines and lives in general running, while his wife assured they had the fuel to do so.

Within ten minutes of Jared and Jensen’s first visit to the store, they heard stories about the Holliways’ famous “get togethers.” Ostensibly, the parties extended that small town charm and hospitality to the many tourists who visited. However, the two young Adepts believed the permanent residents just liked the excuse to come together under one roof, eat to excess, and enjoy each others’ company. 

The fact that one of these parties miraculously happened within a week of their arrival, and that the off season, the time between the summer’s hikers and thrill seekers and winter’s cold-weather sports enthusiasts, saw a sharp decline in tourists, only reinforced the boys' suspicions. 

They walked into town, the crisp, tailored lines of their black dress uniforms hidden under the imposing, floor-length black top coats the cold weather demanded. The solid-black profile of the Adept uniform, its austere lines, almost severe in its silhouette, set all psionics apart. Given their role in the war, it also afforded the Adepts a level of deference and respect wherever they went. Neither Jared nor Jensen particularly wanted to wear their dress blacks tonight, but failing to do so was unheard of. 

Their entrance into the large community center sent ripples through the one hundred or so attendees. Giant timbers arched gracefully over the wide, wooden floor, framing a glastinium roof. The view up through the ceiling took the boys' breaths away. The surreal massive peaks surrounding the town gleamed and glistened in the moonlight. The sky sparkled with a million stars in the black ether. Thousands of tiny, white lights floated above the crowd, their tiny lamps trapped in a suspensor field, moving slowly like fireflies in a gentle breeze.

Before they could even reach for the fasteners on their coats, Ella, Loretta and Sola Luis descended on them, fussing and gushing over how “handsome” they looked. Watching the women carry on a conversation about them while they stood there amused the two men greatly. 

The long coats removed and safely stowed away, Loretta took an arm each into hers and lead them into the party proper. Men and women they had met during their visits to town swarmed around them. Endless pleasantries, queries as to how they found their stay so far, and the normal socially polite conversation followed them to the refreshment tables, clearly Loretta’s intended destination. In moments, they both found their hands full of heavy plates loaded down with homemade food, and Loretta gently nudged them towards a table with two empty seats.

The two young men found an unexpected sense of relief and peace at being plunged into this casual normalcy. Where men discussed sports and technology and women talked of food and home and the social workings of their little part of the world. Regardless of time and distance, both men clung to the belief that they could find this warmth of hearth in small towns across the many planets of the Republic. 

Two resident couples sat at their table as well as several young men and women the boys assumed to be tourists. The most disconcerting aspect of their newfound empathy was being instantly and almost unfairly aware of the intentions of those around them. Their arrival at the table had immediately sparked a more than friendly interest of the young tourists. 

Jared had never felt uncomfortable with unsolicited sexual advances. His looks had garnered a fair share of that kind of attention over the years. Any number of would be paramours at the Academy had pursued him, and with very few exceptions, they had all been disappointed. Jensen had never had such hesitance. His romantic exploits were something of a legend. 

Jared had never expressed an overt interest in one sex over the other, and from what he knew, neither had Jensen. He had only ever known three people who had no attraction to both sexes. However, to be confronted with two men and two women, all of whom would gladly accompany him to bed, caused him to blush slightly. Surprisingly, he felt the same hesitation from his counterpart. 

Jensen engaged the young tourists in conversation, his normal charm and charisma winning them over easily. Apparently Jared's shyness held a similar allure. Before a pause in conversation could become awkward, he offered to refill all of their drinks. As he stood, Jensen stood also, much to his surprise, and they made their way over to the refreshment tables to retrieve an armload of beverages.

Jared nudged Jensen with his shoulder, “ The blond guy and the redheaded woman want you, dude.”

Jensen chuckled. “I don’t think any of them are particular as long they get at least one of us into bed.”

“ It’s cool, you know? If you wanted to. . .”

“Yeah, same here. Maybe we should.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

They returned to the table, drinks in tow. Whatever unspoken decision they had made paved the way for the rest of the evening. In less than an hour, they had paired off: Jensen gravitating toward the blond young man and Jared toward a petite brunette. 

Jensen felt at ease with the blond. He was not as tall as Jensen, nor as broad, but he was certainly handsome, with deep blue eyes and almost delicate features. He made no attempt to downplay his attraction to the Adept. As the evening progressed, the two men moved closer, the blond resting his hand on Jensen’s thigh, or arm, or back. They danced, drank, and laughed. Jensen genuinely liked the guy, however, something felt off to him.

When Jensen exited the restroom to return to the party, he found his date leaning against the wall. The shorter man stalked up to him with intent, pushing him against the wall and ravishing his mouth. Jensen threw himself into the kiss.

Everything about it was right, exactly like he enjoyed, but it all felt flat, dull. He couldn’t figure out what the hell was wrong. He had a very attractive guy who obviously wanted him. The guy could definitely kiss, and Jensen felt nothing. His date sensed it, too.

Jensen kissed him on the temple, and turned and walked away.



Jared walked down the long path to the door of the cabin, the mist of his breath floating around him in the cold night air. The night had not gone at all like he had planned.

The little brunette was certainly pretty enough, interested enough. When Jensen and his date had disappeared from the table, she had suggested they go for a walk. He may not be the most sexually experienced person on the planet, but you didn’t need to be an empath to catch her meaning.

They had made it to the door of the lodge where she stayed. He kissed her deeply, and she responded with great enthusiasm. He felt her hands squeezing his ass tightly, and he cupped her breast in his right hand. The kiss, the touching, it all was working, perfectly. If Jared could come up with an ideal sexual situation, this was it. 

He felt nothing. He started pulling out fantasies, anything to trigger some spark. Nothing.

He had apologized, assured the girl he was just tired, and beat a hasty retreat. The walk  brought anything but clarity. His head swam. He knew he should have been more than aroused, but the whole encounter felt empty, like a phantom of what it was supposed to be. The ache of not having Jensen within arms reach underscored the entire thing, and raising questions he didn’t have answers to, and he damned sure didn’t want to go after those answers.

Despite his best efforts to block the connection between Jensen and himself, all through the evening, he kept feeling precisely what his counterpart felt. In a way, he couldn’t be more relieved that their attempted rendezvous had failed so spectacularly. He did not want to think about experiencing Jen’s emotions while he had intercourse. He shuddered at the thought. 

The only thing he could be thankful for at the moment was the lessening of the ache from being separated. As each step took him closer to the cabin, the pain lessened. The tightness in his chest, that ghostly feeling making breathing difficult faded. 

He walked through the door, unfastening his coat and draping the material across the back of a chair next to Jensen’s. He found his friend in the kitchen, nursing a steaming cup of hot cider, a matching mug waiting for him on the counter. 

“Well that sucked,” he grumbled as he picked up the mug, taking a long, slow drink of the spicy, soothing liquid.

Jensen mumbled his agreement. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then moving as one, they fell upon each other. Frantically kissing, too eager, teeth clacking together. It was frenzied, and passionate, and everything a kiss should be.

For a moment, the universe unfolded around them, its mysteries and enigmas opening up like sun-starved flowers. The entirety of two separate men began to merge into one, and the process startled them both. They pulled apart at the same time, and groaned. 

Jared leaned his head forward, resting it against Jensen’s. “That was. . . . intense,” he said.

Jensen huffed out a laugh. “What the hell is happening to us?”

Jared plopped back down on his stool, picking his mug up in the process. Jensen matched his dazed expression and posture, taking slow drafts in perfect unison.

“Whatever this link is between us, touch makes it stronger,” Jared offered. “I never felt anything like that before.”

“Before the corridor,” Jensen finished. 


Jared shrugged, looking down into his rapidly emptying mug. He got up, refilling both his and Jensen's cups. He stared at his friend, taking in his features. Jensen, without question, provided a text book definition of classical beauty. A long, straight nose, lush full lips, his pale skin had not one flaw or blemish except for the faint sprinkling of freckles across his nose and up his high, strong cheekbones. Thick hair, strands alternating between gold and copper and auburn, a perfect play land for light to dance in. 

And his eyes. Jared had no idea how to describe them. It almost seemed that they began in this pure, impossibly deep and bright green, shot through with burnished gold. His glance could stop anyone from one hundred meters. He could not begin to explain why it had taken this long for burning desire for this man to spring up and consume him.

“I feel it, too,” Jared spoke softly.

Jensen answered, “I need to touch you. To comfort you, to hold and be held by you.” He paused, the weight of his words sinking in, the pressure becoming too much.  “And its freaking me the fuck out!”

Jared barked out laughter at his friend’s exclamation. “Yeah. Me, too.”

Jensen loved it when he would let go and laugh like that, loud and free. 

Jensen moved slowly around the counter to stand close behind Jared. As he reached out to touch him, he could see the tremors in his hand and arm. Jared shifted slightly backward, right into Jensen’s open hand. 

The circuit completed.

The world moved in slow motion, like an impressionist hologram. Turning face to face, into one another. Hazel and jade locking then blending. Gentle whisper touches and whisper breaths and whisper vows floating over and around and through them both. 

Fasteners and fabric opened, the black yielding to golden skin like night miraculously parting to reveal noon. Warm and real and present, they touched and tasted and breathed each other in. And shot through it all were the loud thumps of two strong hearts beating as one. 

A flash of thought and Jared smiled because Jensen’s lips were as soft and lush and decadent and perfect and opulent as he knew they would be, but the taste and presence of the man in the kiss blasted open the boundaries of his imagination. Then kisses turned deeper, but gentler, the slight rasp of their skin counterpoint to the velvet heat as they devoured the other’s breath.

Jared felt the lush suede of the couch on his back, but as a faint echo compared to the weight of Jensen on top of him. He smiled against Jensen’s cheek, his joy flooding them both, answered by Jensen’s. They slotted together like halves of a whole broken in two in some ancient era, finally reunited. They sighed their deepest contentment, and felt the universe sigh with them. 

They didn’t discuss any part of what they did. They didn’t need to. Whatever liaisons their pasts held blew apart in the fire growing between them, like fog in sunlight. Their hands traveled all over their entwined bodies, mapping a topography both new and achingly familiar. The ridges of spine and rib, the swell of glute and bicep and chest, strength of bone, give of joint. Supple skin, here ticklish, there erotic. And the burning steel in velvet of their sex, throbbing and heavy. A finger found its way there, to that secret place, the clench of muscle that twitched in anticipation.

Jared gasped, pressing himself down on Jensen’s finger. In a moment or an hour, he couldn’t tell which, the crown of Jensen’s cock nudged against his entrance. He grabbed Jensen’s head, a hand on each side, holding him still. Their eyes locked.

“I love you,” Jared said, not wanting to wait a moment more. His unshakable conviction rocked through them both, and as Jensen echoed the words back to him, Jared wrapped an impossibly long leg around his lover and pulled Jensen into him and pressed himself down onto his lover’s cock. 

They cried out in ecstasy, eyes shut, so they missed the great rolling waves of energy blasting from the epicenter of their love making. The rhythm of their thrusts, their panting breaths, set the tempo for explosions of power washing over the town, the forests, the great mountains. 

Jared dug his fingers into the powerful muscles of Jensen’s back. Jensen seized his mouth, kissing him with the same passion that he claimed his body. Jared felt that he would fly apart from the pleasure. He felt not only his own rapture but every sensation, feeling, impulse and exultation of Jensen as well. As his release pumped out between their bodies, he felt the molten heat of Jensen coming inside him. They cried out, a sound almost of agony, consumed in their exquisite coupling. 

Outside, a gust of wind radiated outward from them. Every tree it touched grew stronger and taller. Every fruit, sweeter. Aches and pains and long held afflictions blew off of and away from the townspeople of Ouray. And the valley fell into blissful quieted.

Chapter Text

The greatest and most costly mistakes committed by our species stem from imbalance. The ancient Terrans elevated the individual, at the cost of the collective. Some tried to aggrandize the collective at the cost of the individual. The result was an era of rapacious consumption that destroyed our ancestral home. At inestimable price, we learned to cultivate and grow the individual that he or she may best serve the whole of humanity. The Founders showed great wisdom in instilling this in the core of our Republic. Every generation from then to now has shown great discipline to maintain that wisdom.

— Interview with Adjutant Justicar Conservator Marissa Umbrego as entrusted to Pontifex Inicio Smyth in 2965 AT.


The morning dawned bright and glorious, the sunlight setting the pure white peaks around the valley afire in vibrant oranges and reds. Thin clouds ribboned across the sky, gold to red to purple. Frost clung to the trees surrounding them, sparkling and dancing gently in the breeze. The lake mirrored the entire display like a giant mirror, the faintest distortion where the wind kissed the surface. 

Jensen stood in the great room of the cabin, its massive windows overlooking the morning. The large timbers framing the vista like a giant painting. The rich smell of coffee drifted up from the steaming mug in his hand, its warmth soothing in the slightly chilly room. Several hours ago, he had woken long enough to get him and Jared into the far more comfortable bed in the master suite. Jared hadn’t woken yet, and the house felt oddly empty.

He had never been afraid of being alone. He often sought out solitude, welcoming it, embracing it as a time to shrug off the burdens he carried. Now, he found he didn’t like it at all. With every passing day, Jared felt more a part of him than the day before, more intertwined. He suspected that in time, they would be indistinguishable. Two parts of one whole, incomplete without the other. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of it all was that it didn’t bother him. Not one bit. 

That bond between them, when he closed his eyes, he could see a gossamer golden thread connecting them. Now, it looked and felt like many threads, weaving and braiding together, the connection stronger and growing stronger every day. Even in slumber, he could feel Jared, the phantom flittering of emotions from his dreams, the faint flutterings of his consciousness pushing slowly to the surface, and then the sated joy of snuggling further under the bed clothes.

Jensen smiled widely, out to the morning.

He wandered into the kitchen, pulling the ingredients for breakfast out of the cooler and pantry. He truly wanted something to eat, but also knew that the smells of cooking sausages and eggs would lure his counterpart out of his slumber. 

Like clockwork, a sleepy-warm and tousled Jared stumbled into the kitchen, as if on autopilot to the nearest cup of coffee. Jensen chuckled, pouring Jared a cup of the rich brew, and placing it into his hands. Jared grumbled his thanks, hunching down around the cup. 

By the time Jensen began plating their meal, Jared had moved from monosyllabic grunts to monosyllabic words. Jensen viewed it as a victory. Jared made happy contented noises as he ate his breakfast, Jensen smiling at him the entire time.

So much of what he felt for Jared transported him back to his childhood. He remembered the feeling of complete acceptance, unconditional love, and above all feeling safe when they were together. It had taken him over ten years, but he finally began to understand the impact that loss had on him. To have it back, now, brought into sharp contrast what he thought he had needed for the entirety of his time at the Academy and what he really needed. The Justicar was a more perceptive man than he had given him credit. 

Perhaps the most telling change in himself was the fact that now he was clearly well beyond a level six telekinetic. Maybe as high as an eight, but it no longer mattered. He certainly wouldn’t complain about his new found power, but in the light of everything else this bonding had brought into his life, back into his life, power seemed such a small, almost petty part of it. 

He broke free of his reverie to find Jared watching him closely, his eyes still puffy from sleep, his hair tousled and flat on one side. Jared got him. He completely understood Jensen from the inside out, and it brought such crushing comfort that his other concerns just evaporated. He held Jared’s gaze, smiled at him, and they both felt the robust warmth of all that lay between them, vibrating along their connection. And another gossamer thread had woven itself into the bond.



Jensen screamed and spluttered. Then screamed and spluttered again. 

The lake water burned him in its coldness, fiery needles all throughout his skin. His only satisfaction came in knowing he had pulled Jared in with him. They both bounced and flailed around in the icy water, splashing each other and yelling. Jensen made a sudden dash for the shore, determined to get out of the lake before hypothermia set in. He could hear Jared's teeth chattering right behind him.

They ran to the cabin, throwing open the door and plunging inside, unconcerned about the puddles of water following them. 

When he had stopped shaking enough to form a sentence, Jensen yelled, “You are an idiot!”

Jared smiled brightly at him, even though his lips were blue.

“That lake wouldn’t be warm enough to swim in during summer!” he continued. “I’m surprised it isn’t iced over right now!”

Jared kept grinning at him, like the cat that got the cream. He reached behind him for a large blanket, throwing it around both their shoulders, and pulling Jensen close to him. They huddled together, sharing warmth and trying to chase away the chill. The older man continued muttering threats and curses, and the younger kept smiling. 

They felt it at the same time, an echo on the edge of their consciousness. The distinct imprint of the Justicar and the Optia.

Jared pulled back from their huddle, suddenly serious. “I guess we are gonna have company.”

Jensen nodded and they headed upstairs to get ready for their guests.



It took their superiors longer to arrive than they had anticipated. They had managed to quickly shower, dress and mop up the lake water from the mud room. When the officers arrived, they found two damp but uniformed cadets standing at attention inside the door. 

Their commanders stopped short, surprised to see the two young Adepts waiting for them, and both dripping slightly. They offered soggy salutes to Morgan and Ferris, and the Justicar set them at ease.

"Did we catch you at a bad time," he asked them, struggling not to smile.

"No, sir," Jensen answered. "We sensed you coming and hurried to get ready for your arrival."

"You don't shower until this late in the morning now?" the Optia asked.

Jensen cut playful accusing eyes at his counterpart. "No, ma'am. Jared thought it would be a great idea to go for a swim this morning. In the lake."

Morgan could hold it in no longer and laughed loudly. "You two dove into the lake behind the cabin? You can't swim in that thing in the height of summer."

"That is what I told him, sir"

"After we were already wet," Jared defended.

"Wait," the Optia interrupted. "You said you sensed us coming? How long ago."

"About half an hour ago, ma'am," Jared answered.

She looked bemusedly at the Justicar, "We were just leaving Celestus. They got clear imprint and impression filtering from over 1000 kilometers away."

Morgan nodded, taking in this information, and noticed that his charges were smirking.

"Something you would like to share with us, Decurions?" He asked.

"Sir, someone is coming up the path, and I think she is here to see you," Jensen answered.

The Justicar and Optia turned to look but saw nothing. Jared interrupted their reconnoiter with an offer of hot tea, assuring them they had a few minutes before their guest arrived.

Morgan got a few sips in before the cabin door burst open, revealing a very agitated Loretta.

"Jeffrey Dean," she yelled, closing in on them in the kitchen. "If you think you are too high and mighty to stop in and say hello to me, I promise you I will bring you down enough pegs that you don't make that mistake again."

The two young men could hear their superior huffing soft laughter into this mug. He cut his eyes up to look at them, sparkling with amusement, before setting his mug down and with feline speed and grace sweeping the much shorter woman up into a spinning hug.

She squealed and protested, threatening dire repercussions if he didn't set her down at once, her laughter however, betrayed her delight in seeing her old friend. 

"Loretta," Morgan said as he settled her back on her feet. "How have you been, my dear?"

Her hands were rested palm down on his chest, smoothing down the material of his black uniform. "I've been wonderful, too wonderful to tell it, except for the fact that my old, old, OLD friend started putting on airs and refusing to come see me."

Jensen and Jared delighted in watching this strange game of cat and mouse, mixed with an ample dose of flirting. Finally, the two old friends hugged with genuine fondness. The Justicar introduced the Optia, and the boys set about preparing a cup of tea for their new guest.

As soon as they handed it over, she took and set it on the counter, then took a place between the two of them where they could show her the appreciation and affection she deserved. Hugs and noisy kisses on the cheek later, she proceeded to stare down Morgan, who sat watching the display with curiosity and amusement. 

"So, I see that you have met Jensen and Jared," he started, as if to cue Loretta to spill the whole story, knowing full well she had no intention of doing any such thing.

"Of course, I did," she answered him, as though speaking to a very slow and difficult child. "How many people come into this town, and specifically to stay in your cabin that I don't know?"

Morgan nodded, accepting the point, but decided to wait her out for more details.

She relented in only a few moments. "You send these precious boys up here, too thin, looking like half-drowned kittens, and you think I am not going to take steps to fix this?" While she conveyed her less than flattering description of their state of arrival, she patted their hands, as if to assure them it was all right now, and this bad man in front of them would have to pay for his transgressions against her boys. 

Jensen and Jared fought with all they had to keep from laughing.

"And of course, you suspect that I had some clandestine scheme to reduce them to such pitiful states and dump them on your doorstep," Morgan wryly answered. 

Loretta became suddenly serious, her grip on the boys' hands tightening. "No," she began with uncharacteristic softness. "I don't think that at all. I think you sent them to us, the whole town, because they needed us."

Jared pressed a gentle kiss onto the top of her head, his warm eyes looking at Jensen with a faint veil of tears over the stunning irises. Jensen had put an arm around Loretta's waist and squeezed her tightly.

"What you, Mr. High and Mighty Justicar , didn't count on was that maybe we needed them, too," the small powerhouse continued.

The rest of the morning continued with the pair of old friends catching up, the boys jumping in and contributing tales of their adventures over the past few days. As lunch approached, Loretta excused herself, stating she had a meal to prepare, and that these four "miscreants" had better darken her doorway in about an hour if they knew what was good for them. Morgan rose to show her to the door. Jared knew he wasn't supposed to overhear, but as the old friends hugged, he heard the Justicar whisper a "Thank you," to Loretta. She asked him how he thought she could have any other choice. Jared could not make sense of the exchange, and decided to shrug it off.

When Morgan returned to the living room, he asked them how they were doing.

"Better, sir," Jensen answered. "The rest was certainly needed, and the location is amazing." He paused, gathering his thoughts. Jared scooted closer to him on the sofa. "I guess the most important part is that we are finally starting to understand some things. I mean we still have no idea about our talents. We haven't wanted to risk trying them, but this connection between us? We are starting to come to grips with that and what it means."

The Optia asked, "Could you try and explain this bond to us?"

The ensuing explanation clued her into far more than she expected. The words they chose were careful and deliberate, but beyond that, they worked in perfect tandem, sometimes finishing off the other's sentence before she even realized the first was struggling. They had synchronized even further from the last time she had observed them. In all, the effect was somewhat disconcerting, but she could not deny that both young men seemed to be better and stronger together than apart. 

As the quartet made the sloping, twisting journey to Loretta’s cafe, surrounded by the pristine wilderness, the music of birds and insects surrounding them, Jared broke the silence.

"Justicar, sir," he asked, almost tentatively. "I wanted to thank you."

"For what, son?"

"Well, a number of things, letting us come here, being so patient with us, taking time out of your schedule to deal with us, but most of all, thank you for not granting Jen's request for early appointment."

Morgan could not recall the last time he had heard Jared speak so earnestly, with such gravity. 

"Jared, in all of the things you just thanked me for, I was doing my job the best way I know how, but you are very welcome. And for what its worth, I am supremely glad I denied that request, as well."

Jensen ducked his head down, and Jared placed his hand flat and firm against the small of his friend's back.



When they reached the cafe, the usual lunch crowd had gathered, and Loretta could be heard sassing the customers, the cook staff, largely anyone within hearing range, and apparently having a large time of it. The four Adepts had barely crossed the threshold before she swept down on them, carrying them away to a table that apparently had been waiting for them. 

The meal was every bit as amazing as they had come to expect from her cooking, and though either would be loathe to admit it, the two young men adored her and adored equally the way she fussed over them, but every expression, gesture and tone, conveyed precisely how they felt about her. 

After she had brought them second helpings of pie (because they still were too thin), and denied the Justicar second helpings (because he wasn't), Morgan looked over at his charges, across the rim of his steaming cup of coffee.

"She a tremendous ally, boys. Anyone would be lucky as hell to have her fighting in their corner."

The two young men nodded their understanding.

Morgan settled back into his seat, taking a brief moment to savor his return to his favorite place. It strangely warmed his heart that the boys had so seamlessly integrated into the town. Their lunch had been prolonged by the stream of people coming to welcome him back, and he watched how every one of those people, his friends, gravitated to the boys, hugging them often, and always looking upon them with great fondness. The past few days had reminded him, strongly and unpleasantly of what was to come for these young men. He had no idea if would be enough, but he hoped that when faced with the difficulties ahead of them, they could find sanctuary in this town and its people.

His wrist band alarm went off, startling him out of his reverie. "Oh, Tom and Erica will be here any minute."

Jensen and Jared looked up with wide surprised eyes, both asking , "Really?", overly loudly and with no attempt to hide their excitement at seeing their old friends. Morgan had planned this, allowing those who were closest to the boys to come here, and work with them, coming to understand all the changes the pair had undergone, and helping reestablish that support network they all would need. Tom and Erica were the obvious choices.

"I have cleared them to stay here with you for a few days," the Justicar explained. "And the day after tomorrow, the rest of your friends will arrive for the weekend, though they can only stay one night."

This announcement seemed to dampen the boys' high-spirits. Morgan frowned at that, though he couldn't say it was an unexpected response. 

"Sir," Jensen began, "When are we going to return to the Academy?"

This normally gung-ho young man's lack of enthusiasm at the prospect shocked Morgan. "It will be another week. You will return a week after your friends leave here." Both young Adepts nodded, silently. "Neither of you seem particularly pleased at the idea."

"No, sir," Jared explained. "It isn't that. We want to get back and begin training and settling back into our routines, but..." his voice trailed off.

It suddenly occurred to the Justicar the young mens' reluctance. "You don't want to leave Ouray."

The two Adepts looked sheepish, as though the desire to stay here shamed them.

Morgan smiled warmly at them. "There is nothing wrong with not wanting to leave this place. I go through that every time I visit and have to leave. But I will make you a deal. You can have access to the cabin whenever you have breaks at school. I'll even allow some weekend trips up here. All right?"

"Yes, sir," came back at him in stereo, both men trying to control their excitement and gratitude. 

"Boys, don't look at me like I'm a saint. My motivation was purely selfish."

Even the Optia looked at him with confusion at that declaration. At that moment, Loretta came around, pitcher of sweetened ice tea in one hand, her other settling on Morgan’s shoulder, squeezing gently, and approvingly.

"He knows full well that if he didn't offer that place to you boys there would be hell to pay," she interrupted him. "Every person in this town would turn on him like a pack of rabid wolves. And I for one, would beat him with my shoe to within an inch of his life."

Within a few minutes, Jared and Jensen leapt to their feet, asking to be dismissed. Tom and Erica had arrived at the port. The remaining three adults smiled and chuckled at their excitement.

Loretta sat down in one of the now empty seats.

“Jeffrey Morgan, I don’t know whether to hug you or hit you.”

He raised an eyebrow at her outburst.

“You send those boys to us, and in less than 24 hours, they have the whole damn town wrapped around their fingers. And no, Samantha, they didn’t use any powers. They are sweet, kind, generous, and scared to death. So do either of you want to explain why every last one of us has caught them with fear in their eyes? Do you care to explain what in the hell is going on that has them so frightened?”

Morgan set his cup down, internally debating how much, if anything, he should reveal. One look at Loretta’s determined face, and he realized whatever resistance he might have would fold in short order. 

“Loretta, I really wish I had you at the Academy,” he smiled in answer.

“Don’t you even try flattery to avoid my question, Jeffrey.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. They are special.” He stopped, almost as if that simple declaration would explain everything.

“So do you think I am blind, stupid, or both?” She demanded.

“Loretta, in the past month everything we thought we knew about Adepts got shot to hell by those two young men,” he stopped, rubbing a hand down his face. “They are the most powerful Adepts we’ve ever seen, and I’m not talking a jump of one level. They are literally off the scale. We don’t know how powerful they are, but we know that their powers are beyond anything any of us has imagined possible.”

Loretta’s face softened, determination fading into realization and concern. “The war,” she said.

“Yes, the war,” Morgan continued. “Loretta, it's not going well. Our latest simulations indicate we have five years on the outside. Five years. And then everything is gone. No more Republic, hell no more humanity. All of it gone.”

A heavy silence fell across the table. 

“Jeffrey,” Loretta started. “They can turn the tide? Pull us all back from extinction?”

“I don’t know,” he answered quietly. “But, if our suspicions are correct, yeah, they have that potential.”

“And this all happened suddenly, didn’t it?”

“They were both among the highest ranked if not the highest in their disciplines,” Samantha explained. “Then something happened, we don’t know what, but a moment of contact and a shockwave came out of them that decimated 400 meters of glastinium windows in the classroom core. Pulverized. Those windows were 15 centimeters thick.”

Loretta’s eyes narrowed. “So you sent them here while you figured out what to do with them.”

“We sent them here because when your life turns into a tempest you desperately seek solid ground,” Jeffrey explained. “I knew this place, and yes, you specifically, could become that for them. They have no real control over these new abilities, and they feel like they have no control over their lives. I wanted to get them away from the circumstances that made them feel that and hope they could find their confidence and footing again. I can already see that it worked.”

Loretta looked down at her hands, folded in front of her on the table. “So in a week they go back, and the clock starts ticking before the full weight of the future of all of us falls on their shoulders. Is that right?”

“In a way, yes,” Morgan answered.

“Don’t bullshit me, Jeffrey,” she snapped back, true anger firing in her eyes. “Those boys have to take on a burden that would crush any of the rest of us, and on top of that, in order to save us, we have to turn them into mass-murderers. I know what the score is here, Jeffrey. And I get that you don’t have a hell of a lot of choice in the matter. I am not a fool. I understand this isn’t optional for them or us. But I can promise you, I won’t like it. Not for one God forsaken minute.”

She stood abruptly, pushing her chair back in with more force than strictly necessary. She stood behind it, her knuckles whitening with the force of her grip. 

“Promise me this, Jeffrey.” She waited until he had nodded his assent. “When they get hurt, send them here, send them to us, to me. Promise me we get to try and put them back together.”

In all his years as the head of the ministry, Jeffrey Morgan had never hated his job more than at this moment, one of his oldest and truest friends ripping away the curtain to reveal the ugliness of the road ahead of all of them. 

“I promise.”

Chapter Text

When the Hermes broke the light barrier, the universe opened up before us. Trans-light travel saved our species, and with every passing century our, TL drives go faster, further, and more efficiently than the generation before. We have never found a way to surmount the TL conduit barrier. Over three-thousand years of faster than light travel and we still must traverse the conduits embedded in the fabric of our universe. Physicist railed against the limitation, until ultimately, the universe’s structure saved us all.

 — Transcript of Media Interview with Justicar Ingenium Alton Lorza, as entrusted to Journalist Sari Kelra in 3155 AT.


The passenger terminal of the Ouray Port was designed for maximum visual impact. Where walls should be, giant windows took their place. The energy fields the ships flew through to enter the docking area blocked out the elements and continued the uninterrupted vistas from all four sides. To the north, the massive peaks towered above all, their white surfaces blindingly bright in the early afternoon sunlight. To the east and west, the forests unfolded, their verdant carpet lining the large valley. To the south, the town itself sprawled out, its rustic, tidy buildings bewitching in their charm, before they gave way to more trees and the more distant mountains forming the barrier of the valley. Huge timbers framed each window, and provided the structural support of the building.

The overall effect left visitors awestruck more often than not, and Jared and Jensen found their friends slack-jawed and staring up and around with wide eyes. They called out to gain their attention and bright wide smiles greeted them. Tom crushed Jared to him, and Erica did much the same with Jensen. To the surprise of the visiting Adepts, Jensen broke free of Erica and grabbed Tom into a full body hug, while Jared embraced Erica. The Empath and the Kinetic exchanged bemused glances, but hugged back.

Jared and Jensen barraged them with questions: how was the Academy? How were their friends? The pair didn't get a chance to answer before they were being dragged from the port, barely having time to secure their packs and follow Jared and Jensen down the main thoroughfare. 

They were led into a building a few blocks down the street. Inside they found a warm, homey cafe. The plank floors stained pale and natural color, the walls painted pale yellow. The main room held about twenty tables, seating anywhere from two to eight. The rich aromas of home cooked food assaulted them, and Tom's stomach let out a loud grumble, causing him to blush slightly and smile sheepishly. A small, stout woman with chocolate-colored skin and eyes launched herself at him, scolding his friends for making him stand too long, and she dragged him to a table. He had just sat when he realized the Justicar and Optia Ferris occupied two of the other chairs. 

Jensen's warm, strong hand squeezed his shoulder. "Tom, meet Loretta. She runs the cafe." He leaned down and whispered into Tom's ear. "And your life if you let her."

"I heard you, Jensen Ackles," a voice cried out from the kitchen, where the tiny whirlwind of a woman had just disappeared. "Don't make me smack you, boy." Jared and Jensen both laughed loudly.

Tom tried to stand and salute his superiors, but the Justicar waved him back down to his seat. "We don't stand on formalities here, Tom," he explained. "Mainly because Loretta won't let us."

"Jeffrey Morgan, you are on thin ice with me as it is, boy," Loretta scolded him. She had appeared at the table baring large, heaping, steaming plates of food. She had only just moved her hand away before Tom tucked in with vigor. Loretta ruffled his hair affectionately. "I like this one. Do you feed these boys at that school of yours? Or do you make them hunt and fish for survival in the five minutes a day you give them to themselves?"

Erica kept cutting alarmed glances at the woman. She had never heard anyone address the Justicar in this manner, but judging by the highly amused expression he wore, he didn't appear to be overly bothered by it. She had to admit that the meal set before her made the offerings of the Academy cafeteria seem like food for pets, not soldiers in training.

Jared and Jensen were frantically waving away Loretta’s attempts to feed them further. Tom loved the playfulness between his friends and this woman. He figured he liked her just fine.

"My goodness," she declared, watching Tom attack his plate. "We are gonna need at least another plateful. You poor, child," she tutted, fussing around the tall Adept. Jared and the Justicar snickered at her reference to this man, almost twice her height, as a child. "Do I need to take Jeffrey here out to the woodshed for starving you? I'll do it."

Tom grinned around his fork, trying to speak without being rude. He got out a muffled "No, ma'am."

"Well if you change your mind, let me know," she whispered to him conspiratorially. 

The Justicar and Optia Ferris, set their empty coffee cups down on the table. The older man turned to Jared and Jensen. "You have everything you need at the cabin?"

"Yes, sir," they answered together. 

"If you need anything, just let Ella know. I imagine Loretta will feed you any time you like."

"Are you leaving so soon, Jeffrey," Loretta asked. "You just got here."

Morgan stood and drew the petite woman to him, hugging her close. "I know, Loretta , but we will be back in a little more than a week to get the boys."

"That doesn't make it better," she mumbled into his chest.

"I know," he whispered. "I know."

Their superiors exited without fanfare or formality, leaving the young friends to catch up.

Tom had torn through his second helping of the delicious pie and Loretta had already brought him a third. 

Erica stared at him in disbelief, and he kept throwing "What?" looks at her, oblivious to the massive quantity of food he had just put away. 

Loretta continued to fuss over the four of them, but both Tom and Erica noticed the deference she showed their friends. They both immediately liked her. 

After lazily chatting over superb coffee, and Loretta herself joining the conversation sporadically, they bade her farewell, and made their way out into the city.

Jared and Jensen took great delight in showing them the varied buildings, introducing them to virtually everyone they came into contact with. Tom boggled at how at ease Jared appeared to be with all of these people, and how utterly fond they all seemed to be of him. He had noticed many changes in his friend. He hated to admit it, but all of them looked to be changes for the better.

He noticed that Erica held the same captivated expression he did. Every aspect of Ouray impressed, the views stunning. Erica had continually surprised him over the past month. He had instantly decided he would not like her. He didn't want to like anyone of Jensen's friends, and he damned sure didn't want to like his best friend. He struggled with Jared's request to accept the other man. He was grateful the request hadn't extended farther. 

However, of anyone around him, Erica best understood what he was going through. Her terror matched his own for his closest friend. The pain of being separated from him for so long, she felt as well. He recognized a very similar protective streak in her to his own. In the weeks since Jared and Jensen had left the Academy, he found himself drawn to her. A companion, a confidant who knew precisely what he was going through.

He loved the expressiveness of her wide chocolate-colored eyes. If he had no ability to read her emotions, he had no doubt her eyes would clue him in. As it was, her emotional landscape fascinated him. He had expected to find a deep sexual attraction between her and Jensen and found only a familial affection. In fact, all of the emotions she felt toward Jensen undermined impressions of him. Not only was she protective, a fact in and of itself that shocked Tom, but she felt fondness and concern and regard for Jensen. In all of these emotions, they matched his own for Jared, in intensity, kindness, and timbre.

But now, he had Jared back. He had watched so many changes in Jared's demeanor from the moment they reunited at the port. He knew Jared had no concept of how much he had changed, but somehow, Tom did not dread these changes the way he had anticipated. He knew that given all that Jared had endured in the past month, he would be different. If half the rumors of the events since they left Academy were true, he expected his friend to have changed a great deal. 

Jared wasn't harder, or more detached, or, well if he were being honest with himself, more like Jensen. No, he was somehow more himself. Tom loved the vivid spark in his eyes, the quick laughter, the brightness of his smile. He had never seen Jared so utterly comfortable in his own skin. He was vibrantly alive, and it warmed Tom's heart.

The changes in Jensen were arguably the more shocking. He always struck Tom as being cocky, ambitious to the point of recklessness, emotionally distant and arrogant. In front of him, Jensen, who kept grabbing Jared's arm, pulling him to see some new display in a shop window with the eagerness of a young boy, shocked Tom to his core.

Jensen, this “Jen”, was kind and warm and gentle. He was every bit as alive and glowing as Jared. Tom and Erica had heard whispers of what had happened while their friends were away. Most of it so outlandish, they had dismissed it out of hand. However, none of it could remotely account for what they were seeing. What Tom could read from Erica, her joy and delight at seeing her closest friend so free and happy mirrored his own for Jared.

If the display the two of them made, their playfulness and exuberance, weren't so completely infectious, he would be sulking. He had no intention of ever admitting that this bonding thing between Jared and Jensen could be remotely a good thing. And yet, here it was, right before his eyes. Watching them, watching Erica, taking in the glorious atmosphere of this town, he let all of his reservations and doubts slip away. Instead, he grabbed Erica's hand, dragging her along to where Jensen and Jared were peering excitedly through a shop window.



The walk to the cabin continued in much the same vein. All four were overjoyed at being reunited. Tom sensed that Erica had reached a similar internal peace as his own. Whatever brought their friends to this state of happiness could by no means be all bad.

Tom immediately fell in love with the cabin. Cocooned in a massive stand of pine trees, he could not get a clear idea of the building's size. However, when he walked through the front door, his steps echoing softly on the stone floor, his breath caught in his throat.

The great room had to be at least seven hundred square meters, the vaulted ceiling rising up thirty meters or more. The cantilevered timbers provided all the support the roof needed, leaving the room itself wide open and uninterrupted by support beams. The entire southern wall of the room was glass, looking over a large, placid lake. The right side of the room from where he was standing housed a giant stone fireplace, occupying a full third of the wall, its mouth almost large enough for him to stand in. Its chimney towering upward in an uninterrupted column of stone and mortar . To his left, he saw a large and well equipped kitchen, clerestory windows above the cabinetry. Nesting beside the kitchen and protruding , somewhat, into the great room was a dining table that could seat eight set below more clerestory windows. 

He loved this place, passionately.

He followed Jared and Jensen up the wide stairs, down a spacious hall to his room. A huge, sinfully soft-looking bed waited for him. One wall of the room, the wall facing the bed, had floor to ceiling windows, opening out into a nice sized balcony, with terrific views of the forest and mountains. He stuck his head into the en suite bathroom, spying a spacious shower. This would work nicely, he thought to himself.

He unpacked his things quickly, and headed downstairs to join his friends. He could hear their soft voices and laughter wafting up the stairs.

He loped down the stairs, taking them two at a time, pulling up short when he reached the bottom. Jared and Jensen sat on one of the sofas in the great room, backs toward him. They sat close, closer than perhaps Tom would have liked, their heads inclined toward each other, as if speaking softly to not be overheard. However, they said nothing, just sat there, quietly soaking each other in. He watched them for a moment, until Jared spoke.

"Tom, get yourself a drink from the kitchen. When Erica comes down, we can talk."

Tom walked softly to the kitchen, somehow leery of breaking the gentle peace in the living room. He poured out four glasses of iced tea from the cooler, making two trips to the main room, setting the glasses down in front of his friends. He finally settled on the couch facing them, seeing contentment and a touch of trepidation in their faces.

Erica arrived shortly after, and she took a seat beside him. They sat expectantly, waiting for their friends to begin explaining all that had happened in the days and weeks since that fateful moment in the Academy corridor.

"We want to try and explain all of this to you," Jensen began. "But truth is, we don't really understand it all that well ourselves. We know that somehow, through some strange connection, we knew each other as children. We grew up light years apart, but we knew each other. I remember him vividly as a child, playing together, sharing all the wild supposed secrets that little kids have. I remember losing him, and the agony that accompanied it. I remember being very angry because I thought my parents had forced him to go away, but I suppose it wasn't really their fault.

"It was too easy for everyone involved to dismiss it as the over active imaginations of children," Jared continued for him. "No one had ever heard of anything like it, so we can't really blame the adults. We don't know why after we both arrived at the Academy we didn't reconnect, we didn't recognize each other. I guess the segregation between the classes played a part, the slight age difference as well. We can't explain why the dreams started when they did. I had completely blocked out my memories of him from my childhood, but they are coming back now. No matter what happens or where this takes us, I will always be grateful that it brought us back together. The only way I know how to describe it is it's like finding your best friend and brother after a long separation. I'm glad that he's back in my life."

Tom could understand completely. He had an older brother that he adored, and the thought of losing him brought up emotions he didn't want to have to deal with. During the explanation, Erica had taken his hand. She squeezed it lightly, offering her understanding and sympathy.

Jensen spoke up. "What happened in the corridor is as much a mystery to us as it is to anyone. We know now that the surge of power wasn't a one time thing. Whatever happened to us has ramped our abilities up to levels that apparently can't be measured. The accident at the Academy was our first clue. I really didn't hit that guy with anything close to the brunt of my ability. Being physically separated from Jared had worn me down. I just hurt, ached all over. I thought it was a bad thing, something I had to fight, like an addiction. I guess that is why I was so stubborn about it, battling through the morning with all that I had instead of just going to him. I knew he was struggling the same way I was. We were both pretty stupid about it, but I guess that's understandable. When the drill started, I just wanted to get in my hit and get to Jared. Based on all I had ever known about my ability before, the hit shouldn't have even rippled the shield, but we know what happened."

"I shouldn't have been able to heal him," Jared said. "His injuries were far too severe for a medic to heal. The Justicar showed us the scan logs from the arena. He should have died there on the floor. I guess that was the first time I realized that my gift had been increased too. I think you both know how damned terrifying all of that was. It was so far from anything resembling normal, but then again, everything that has happened for the past month falls under that category, too.

"The Justicar decided he needed to get an idea of how strong our gifts were, so he took us to Quel'Alta. He thought the combat center would be better equipped to measure us, without anyone getting hurt."

"He was wrong," Jensen gravely said. "I don't know how much if anything you've heard about what happened there. Nobody got hurt, but things got a little crazy. He tried to test us, asked me to lift a high-density plastinium block. At first I couldn't, but then Jared reassured me. The connection between us, whatever it is, apparently makes our powers go crazy. I lifted the block and tossed it across the room, about 500 meters. We didn't know it at the time, but the block weighed over a 1,000 tons. When it hit the back wall, the reflexor generators knocked it back at us. It hit the barrier at over 300 kilometers an hour and came straight for Jared. I didn't have time to think, just react. I knew it was going to kill him and I've never been more terrified in my life. I just hit out at it."

"The block shattered," Jared explained. "Thousands, hell maybe millions of tiny shards blasted through a six generator reflex shield and embedded themselves in the walls. I don't know that the Justicar even knows now how much force is required to do that. He told us that no Adept had ever even picked up a block of that size. All we can tell from that test is that Jen is several thousand times more powerful than any Kinetic before."

"Well, that and that we can shield," Jensen said.

"You can shield?" Erica asked, eyes wide in disbelief, the ramification of what she was hearing taking their toll.

"Yeah," Jared answered. "We don't really know how, but we do know that none of the Adepts at the compound had seen anything like it. Nothing could get through it, not sounds or anything, but it was probably more than enough to protect us both from the block."

"We don't know how we generated it," Jensen stated. "Honestly, at this point, I don't think that we do anything without the other. I think that my kinetic ability and Jared's medic abilities are not really coming from just one of us. I think they come from both. The test for Jared kind of made me realize that."

"What happened?" Tom asked, his voice filled with concern for his friend.

"They took us to the infirmary wing of the compound," Jared said. "It was huge. The tech led us into a room with a man on a biotable. I didn't need the equipment to tell me he was as good as dead. Too many injuries, too much damage, and they were keeping him alive on life support."

"Why?" Erica asked.

"To be my test," Jared answered softly, his voice pained. "I hated that, but I guess it turned out for the best. Like Jen, at first I couldn't do it. Then I felt his support, his power, and my gift went nuts. Wave after wave of energy came out, completely healing the guy. The staff freaked. They pushed us out into the hallway. We found out later that everyone in the terminal wing was completely restored."

"That's amazing!" Tom exclaimed.

"That's not the half of it," Jensen smiled. "The center of the wing is this giant atrium filled with trees and plants. They started growing at an astronomical rate. We stood there watching trees grow meters in minutes. Flowers just started blooming. I'd never seen anything like it."

"The Optia says that we're biokinetic," Jared explained.

"But there's not such a thing," Erica argued.

"Well, she also thinks we are telepathic, too," Jensen countered. "And until about a month ago, there was no such thing."

"But why?" Tom asked. "Why is all this happening? I mean what is causing it?"

"Tom, we really don't know," Jensen answered, voice soft and soothing. "The Justicar has a theory, but there isn't much we can do to prove it."

"When he was at the Academy, the Justicar was a historian. He even studied with the Pontifices. He had found a few accounts in the ancient texts about pairs of people who when they met became very powerful. He called it bonded pair theory. He didn't have much time at the Collegium before the war dragged him away from his studies, but he always intended to go back and research it further. He thinks that's what we are."

"So, you two are bonded together? What does that mean?" Erica asked.

"All we can tell so far is that we can't be separated for very long, and preferably never," Jensen explained. "We know that our powers grow exponentially when we connect."

"I don't get this connection thing," Tom said. 

"In a lot of ways, we don't either, Tom," Jared assured him. "We are trying, and understanding it better every day. The only way I know to describe it is it's like a thread or a cord that connects us. I can feel what he feels, what he thinks sometimes, and he can the same. It's sort of like sharing the same mind, I guess. I mean we are still us, separate individuals, but we are more than that. And we have noticed that the connection is getting stronger."

"It's not a bad thing," Jensen said. "In fact, it's pretty much the most amazing thing I've ever felt. I mean , can you imagine what its like to be connected to someone, to know that that person will never reject you? Never judge you? That you will love and be loved in equal measure? I never have to wonder how Jared feels, because I just know. I know that I can tell him anything. In fact, I would be an idiot not to, since he pretty much already knows. I just feel. . .  ."

"Complete," Jared finished for him.

Their friends sat in silence. They watched as they struggled to process and understand all they had just heard. They could feel how they tried to reconcile this with what they had known of the two young men after years of friendship.

Tom spoke first, "So, despite everything, you are happy?" The question was clearly directed at Jared, so he answered.

"Yeah, we are. We really are."

"What about your training and your coursework at the Academy?" Erica asked.

"We know that the Justicar is sending us back in a week," Jen explained. "We’ve stayed current on our studies while we’ve been here. He told us that he is working on arrangements for our training, but we don't really know what that means."

"We're guessing that we will train separately from the other cadets," Jared said. "We will probably take our classes with the others like normal. He'll put us in shared quarters for sure. So Tom, you and Mike might be roommates." He couldn't help but grin at his friends loud groan. 

Erica patted his hand as she laughed at him.

"He's not really so bad," Jensen offered. "Sure, he likes to get into trouble, but he will never pull you down with him. Well, unless you want to go."

"We are all going to have to learn to play nice with each other, aren't we?" Erica asked.

"It would help," Jared said. "A lot. It's going to be hard and confusing for you guys. Tom you don't really know Jen but he knows you now. Everything I feel about you, he feels, too. So, in a weird way, he's your best friend, too."

"Same for you Erica," Jensen explained. 

She sighed dramatically, falling back against the couch cushions and leaning into Tom's side. Jared and Jensen smiled warmly at the subconscious gesture.

"I suppose," she said, pretending the weight of the world had been placed on her shoulders. "If I have to like him, I will. It's my cross to bear."

Tom laughed, wrapping a long arm around her delicate frame and squeezing her. 

"I already have to put up with the over-friendly tree, here," she patted his chest. "I'll make do with you, too."

Chapter Text

The first survey team to encounter Yser deemed it uninhabitable because of the violent storms that ravaged the surface. Their sensor logs intrigued a biologist light years away. He mounted an expedition and found that forests of trees, their trunks meters in diameter, dug in deep with their roots and grew to adulthood in a hand full of cycles. Edible and nutrient-rich plants grew from seed to harvest-ready in about one standard day. The violent storms, the shallow seas, provided rich soil. The vast cave systems provided shelter for millions of colonists. Yser became a leading provider of vital goods to the Republic, and taught us our first lesson about interplanetary ecology. Every ounce of produce we exported off world, we had to replace those raw materials. Had we not caught it in time, the planet would have literally eroded away. Yser teaches us many things. We have come far as a species, but we still have so very much to learn.

 — Transcript of Interview with Justicar Econium Katya Lutreska, as entrusted to Journalist Sari Kelra in 3153 AT.


The remainder of the evening passed in pleasant company and good humor. Tom and Erica regaled them with tales of the Academy, Mike's latest pranks, the freshest gossip, and to some degree the buzz surrounding the two Adepts. Fortunately, from what their friends told them, the majority of the school viewed them as mysterious and intriguing. They both felt that to be far more appealing than dangerous and freakish.

As expected, Loretta popped in with stacks of containers of fresh hot food from her kitchen. She fussed and joked with the four of them. Tom threatened on more than one occasion to put her in his pocket and steal her away back to the Academy. She had instantly liked the tall young man, and mothered him to within an inch of his life at every opportunity he would let her. Which was often.

Several other members of the small community stopped by, to chat, meet the new arrivals, and above all check on Jared and Jensen. Tom and Erica exchanged frequent amused and fond glances, delighted at how the town had adopted their friends.

As the night moved on toward morning, Jared voiced his concerns about the coming day.

"Will they be okay?" he asked tentatively. " The others: Mike, Alona and Chris? Will they be okay with us?"

Tom immediately switched into full on protector mode. "They will be." The "or else" remained unsaid, but no one missed it. Jensen buried his face in Jared's neck, muffling his chuckles. He adored how Tom and Erica still felt the need to protect them, though if the past month had made anything clear it was that they didn't particularly need protecting.

The serious moment passed, and they reclined, sinking into the comfortable couches, steaming mugs of hot chocolate in their hands, watching the fire fade to embers.



Jensen woke to an empty bed. He never liked waking and not finding Jared right next to him. He ran his hand across the wrinkled sheets, taking in their coolness. His counterpart had been up for some time. Not bothering to put on a shirt, he hurried down stairs, sensing the unease in Jared's mind. He couldn't claim to be overly eager for the day himself, but he hated when anything caused Jared to be uncomfortable, to retract into himself. 

The dim light of dawn barely lit the great room, but he could clearly see the outline of  Jared against the massive windows. He looked drawn inward, his arms wrapped tightly around his torso, his shoulders slumping slightly. Jensen slipped in behind him, placing his arms over the other man's, and resting his head on Jared's shoulder. Jared turned his head slightly, enjoying the comfort and warmth.

"It's going to be fine," Jensen whispered.

Jared smiled softly, appreciating the gesture. "You don't believe that."

Jensen huffed out a short laugh, the breath of air tickling Jared's neck. "No, I don't, but I do know that no matter what happens today, we've got Tom and Erica and we have each other." He felt Jared relax slightly, leaning more of his weight against him. 

"We do at that," Jared said softly.

Neither knew precisely how long they stood there, soaking up the dawn and each other. The overwhelming majesty of the view out the windows somehow soothed them, a reminder that the world was bigger than their problems. At least for now.

They felt the others stirring upstairs. They would be down in a few minutes. Jared and Jensen loved the growing affection between their two closest friends. They could sense the attraction there, the hint, the possibility of something more. They knew that both of them held back, waiting to be sure that Jared and Jensen were truly all right. They appreciated their concern, but both men wished they would enjoy each other for a change.

Jensen pulled away first, heading to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast, Jared following on his heels. When Tom and Erica emerged from their rooms, they made their way to the kitchen and the delicious smells of cooking bacon and eggs. 

Greeted with half-cheery and half-sleepy "good mornings," they stood in the doorway watching the two men move around each other in effortless grace. They moved and interacted like they had done this a thousand times, reaching for what the other needed and handing it off without a word. It struck Tom and Erica as eerie and comforting, a strange mix of emotions they associated with the boys more and more these days. Jared glided by them, depositing large mugs of coffee in their hands before returning to the skillet of eggs.

After they had polished off the meal and set the kitchen to rights, they set about getting ready for the arrival of their friends. Tom and Erica felt some of the apprehension of the other two men, however, they knew this would work out. They would make it work out.

By the time the group arrived, Jared and Jensen practically vibrated with nervous energy. Tom had taken to standing right behind them, soothing touches on their shoulders, arms, and backs. 

Mike let out a loud "whoop" before charging at Jensen, enveloping him in a massive hug. When he pulled back, he gave his old friend the once over before glancing carefully at Jared , giving him a brief nod, and nothing more in the way of greeting.

"It's good to see you, Mike," Jared said awkwardly. The brunet eyed him curiously, the question clear as to what gave Jared the right to use his nickname.

Jensen leaned in close to his friend, and whispered in his ear. "Get used to it , bud, we're a matched set, him and I."

Mike eyed his friend, sizing up what he had been told and his options. He visibly relaxed, and pulled Jared toward him in a slightly less enthusiastic hug, but a much appreciated gesture nonetheless.

Chris stood in front of them radiating hostility. Jared chuckled as he pulled Chris in for a hug. When he released him, Chris' blue eyes sparkled with affection but a clear shadow of unease. 

"Chris, have you met Jen, yet?" The Medic asked.

"Just that once at the medlab," he answered, his tone flat and unreadable.

Taking his silent cues from Jared, Jensen greeted Chris. "Jensen Ackles. Your fights are legendary, man. Don't think anyone at the Academy hasn't heard of the 'fighting medic.'"

The praise pleased Chris to no end, the tension radiating off of him palpably lessening.  Standing behind the Yserin were the Takamura twins. Jensen burst out laughing, startled at the wave of fear coming off Jared. He wrapped an arm around his back and pulled him close.

"They are mostly harmless, Jared," he whispered in his ear. "And if you are gonna freak out over all that twin-like behavior, then you are gonna stay freaked out at us for a long time."

Jared chuckled at his own ridiculousness, setting in a little at Jen's side. Nazumi approached first. Her unusual beauty always struck Jared. The porcelain skin, black almond-shaped eyes and the thick, straight black hair. She looked so much like a doll he had to stop occasionally to remind himself this was a real person in front of him. She regarded him, her eyes giving nothing away. He could feel her curiosity, a underlying wave of attraction. He did not expect her to run the blade of her finger down his cheek, but he sensed no ill intent from her.

"You are very beautiful," she softly said. "Very beautiful."

Raidon moved up beside her, looking so much her mirror image, but with decidedly masculine cues. He was much broader of shoulder than his sister, though they both had very narrow waists. Their eyes identical, the same porcelain skin. Jared suspected their hair was kept at matching length and styles, however, Raidon kept his up in an elaborate braid. He too ran his finger down Jared's cheek. However, at this point, he grew uncomfortable. It appeared the twins had decided to share him in bed.

Jensen spoke up, the firmness of his tone brooking no discussion. "That's enough. We all see how beautiful he is, but you can abandon your strategies to bed him right now."

Nazumi looked over at her friend, eyebrow raised. "He is yours then?"

Jared answered her, "Yes, we are mated. We belong to each other."

The answer satisfied the twins but seemed to confuse the others. Jared looked over to see Alona hiding behind the others. He immediately felt her fear, her uncertainty. He walked through the crowd, and drew her into his arms.

"Hey, baby girl," he said softly, placing a whisper of a kiss on the top of her head.

"Your diminutive epithets belittle me," she pretended to protest, as he felt her relax a bit, soaking up the contact.

He held her like that for some minutes, aware of Jensen's focus on them. "I have someone I want you to get to know," he said.

She tensed, but nodded jerkily. He took her hand and led her to Jensen. The normally unflappably confident man softened, hesitantly opened his arms and offered a hug. Jared gently pressed at the small of her back, urging her forward to accept. She did, but the tension in her tiny frame was obvious. Jensen looked up at Jared, pleading in his eyes. Jared looked sorrowfully at two of his favorite people, unable to guess how to bring them together.

The others had made their way into the cabin, claiming their rooms, commenting loudly and approvingly on the place. Alona stuck to Jared's side, unwilling to be far from him. Tom watched the interplay with concern. He knew that Alona struggled with the changes in her friend, that she worried about Jensen's influence over Jared. He only hoped that she would come to see that the influence was mutual and mutually beneficial.

Jensen found Mike and Chris rummaging through the kitchen cooler, probably looking for alcohol. He laughed, warning them that the house was clean. Both grumbled and shot unfriendly looks at him. Mike accused him of being a lousy host. 

"Take it up with the Justicar," he answered. He had worried about Chris. The young man stood out in any crowd due to his pale, almost white skin, contrasting dark hair and bright blue eyes. He also knew he had quite the temper, much more prone to throw punches first and ask questions later. He knew that in time, they would be friends, he did not know if Chris could or would mesh into the larger group. Fortunately, he and Mike appeared to be getting along like a house on fire.

The two interrupted their scavenging long enough to ask him what the hell he was smiling about. Jensen knocked on the counter lightly.

"It's great that you have found someone who can help you fight your way out of all the trouble you get in," he grinned, and left the room. 

He heard Mike say to Chris, "It's not that much trouble, really. Not more than usual or anything."

Jensen continued to laugh as he made his way to Jared.

He found Jared, Tom, Erica and Alona standing together in front of the fireplace. Jared looked up as he entered, and they decided immediately to haul the whole troop to Loretta's. Heavy conversation could wait until after a delicious meal.



As they had expected, Loretta lavished the group with huge plates of piping hot food. Jared and Jensen noted that she did not fuss or cling to them the way she normally did, as though she sensed the tension as two distinctly different social circles converged into one for their sakes. She patted both of their shoulders every time she passed.

By the time the meal had finished, the patterns emerged. Tom and Erica, Mike and Chris, and even Alona had begun to warm to Nazumi. That left Raidon. Jared worried at his bottom lip, concerned that the young man would feel left out. He felt Jensen assure him that it was fine, that Raidon preferred to remain somewhat detached. 

The pair leaned back in their chairs, watching as their friends worked to form new relationships, to welcome and accept each other. Jared and Jensen had no illusions that they weren't doing it solely for them, and for that, they were grateful.

The group walked back to the cabin, taking their time, as most of them had not taken in the town and its surroundings. Jared and Jensen exchanged happy looks, watching the people they cared most for marvel at the beauty of the valley. They answered questions, introduced their Academy friends to the new friends they had made in Ouray. 

They stopped in several shops, allowing time to browse, take in the local color. 

"Not a bad gig," Mike said conspiratorially to Jensen. 

Jensen smiled back. "Not at all, my friend. Not at all."



It took well over an hour to reach the cabin. The sky had darkened, heavy clouds of deep blue rolling in. As the temperature dropped, Jared hoped that snow would fall soon.

As the troop made their way to the great room, filling up the couches, the pair knew they could delay no longer. The time to answer questions had come.

"Guys," Jared said loudly, attempting to get everyone's attention "We know that you have a lot of questions about everything that has happened. We want to try and answer them, as many as we can, but you have to know, we don't have that many answers right now."

"This took us by surprise as much, well probably more, than all of you," Jensen continued. "We are trying to make sense of it, but somethings we know as much as you do."

For over an hour, the pair relived the past month. Neither could believe how much had transpired, how much had changed, in so short a span of time. Now, looking back, they could not deny how much their lives had been enriched, as well as how much they had sacrificed and would have to sacrifice in the future.

As the tale unwound, their voices filling the silence of the room, they hoped that these people, friends of many years could understand how much they needed them. How important their support in the times to come would be. They hoped that the two very different and distinct groups could merge, become a large circle of friends to them and to each other. They hoped.

"The Justicar brought us here," Jared brought the story to a close. "He knew how badly we needed to rest, to try and recuperate before. . . "

"Before whatever happens next," Jensen finished for him.

To both of their surprise, Alona spoke up first. "I can't read you," she said. "I can't read either of you."

Jared knew immediately the source of her concern. In the seven years they had known each other, she had always been able to tell what he felt. Now, at a time when she desperately needed that sense to help deal with the tide of wild developments, she was flying blind.

"Alona," Jared answered. "Our emotions aren't like other people's. I mean, all of our emotions project. It's really difficult to explain, but with others, you sense, detect what they are feeling, but its like you have to seek it out. Ours broadcast. From what we can tell from other empaths, it's like projection."

"We can project," Jensen continued explaining. "We can focus and push feeling outward to that target with force, but just feeling, if we didn't block it, those emotions would be felt by empaths and non-empaths alike. It's too much, and way too dangerous for everyone."

"So, we block it all," Jared finished.

"I understand," Alona said, quietly. "But, just for us, for now, could you lower the block? Let us see and feel? Help us to understand?"

Jared and Jensen looked at Tom, seeking out his thoughts on the idea.

The tall Adepts sighed, running his hand over the back of his neck, a gesture Jared recognized as a sign that he was nervous and unsure. "It's possible," he said, hesitantly. "I don't really know how strong the emotions will be if you don't actually try to project, but I have a feeling it could get pretty intense."

Jared and Jensen fell silent, debating their options internally. "We could try weakening the shield, letting some of it through, but not completely dropping it," Jen offered.

Tom looked at him like he had gone mad. "I don't know how to partial shield," he said. "Is this something new you two can do?"

Jared shook his head. "We've never tried it before. We think we know how to do it, but we aren't certain."

"If it's too much, Tom, could you tell us?" Jensen asked. "Alert us somehow that we need to put the full block up?"

Tom looked uncertainly at them. "I don't know. I mean possibly, but I've been hit by your mesmers twice before, and its damn powerful."

"We can try, I don't think anyone will get hurt, we'll just pull back if we sense it being too much," Jared said.

"Is this something you all want to be a part of?" Jensen asked. "This isn't just going to affect the empaths. You will all feel it, so you need to tell us if you want out."

"We want it," Mike said, shocking the pair. "If it helps us understand this a little better, we want it."

Jared and Jensen looked around as seven heads nodded in agreement. Jensen grabbed Jared's hand and squeezed, as they began to construct the partial block in their minds. Strangely, constructing this type of filter required considerably more concentration and effort than a full block. They didn't want to blast their friends with the full force of their emotions, but not filter so strongly that they couldn't understand. 

Hoping they had succeeded, they heard multiple gasps around them. They looked up to see wondrous expressions on every face. The non-empaths seemed even more affected, as if a new world had opened up around them. A world they had never imagined existed. 

Tom's rich soothing baritone spoke softly, "Focus on each other, guys. Just feel what you feel for each other."

They effortlessly complied. Unfortunately, they realized too late the danger in the request. It was the soft whimpers of Alona crying that broke them from it. Instinctively, their barriers shot up, blacking out the sensations that had flooded the room. Jared moved quickly to his friend's side, gathering her up in his arms.

He could feel the ghosts of his and Jensen's emotions reverberating in the girl, and that terrified him. He sensed immediately that Jensen began scanning the others for similar effects. The echoes were far fainter in the others, with the exception of Tom. Jensen felt like he could reach out and touch his own feelings rolling off the other man. But unlike Alona, Tom seemed to be handling it well.

As Jared continued to read the crying woman in his arms, he felt regret, loss, and sadness. He couldn't understand the genesis of these emotions, and was at a loss of how to help her. He felt suddenly confused and disoriented. He could feel Jensen's and his own presence behind him. The sensation made him feel like he was spinning, losing all equilibrium, and when Tom's hand touched his shoulder, he almost blacked out. Fortunately, the touch grounded him shortly after, and he could feel from his old friend understanding and compassion.

He looked up at Tom with wide and frightened eyes.

"This is what you feel?" Tom asked.

"Part of it, yeah," he answered. He saw tears well up in Tom's eyes.

"We don't feel like this," Tom attempted to explain. "No one does, Jared. I don't even know how to explain this to you. Whatever it is that's between the two of you is way beyond what any of the rest of us are going to experience. That's why she's crying, man. She knows she just caught a glimpse of what she can never have."

Jared's eyes immediately sought out Jensen's, finding an expression on his face he was sure matched his own: confusion and fear.

"Did we hurt you?" Jensen asked. 

Tom gave him a watery smile. "No, you didn't hurt us. Maybe we understand now, a small idea of what connects the two of you."

Erica stood to move to Tom's side, and rest a hand on his biceps with an arm draped around his back, and resting her head on his shoulder. "It was hard for us, to understand how you two could suddenly go from strangers to closer than brothers, but I think we get it now."

"I can't say I understand it," Mike said. "But for the past few weeks, I resented. Didn't like it one bit. But now." He shrugged, a half smile on his lips. "I might be jealous of it, but I won't begrudge you either."

Jensen and Jared smiled gratefully at the normally impish man. The fact that their friends could understand, at least part, of what bound them to each other could only help. Jared noticed that Alona had calmed, her turbulent feelings settling down.

She looked up at him, sniffling, wiping away the tears. "I won't ask for that again," she said. "And don't do it again, either. No matter who asks. But it helped, I think. It helped me."

Jared kissed her forehead, tightening his embrace. He looked around at his friends, new and old. Nazomi and Raidon stared at him in open wonder. He smiled, sensing the devilish thoughts bouncing around their heads. His gaze finally settled on Chris.

The Ymerin sat with his head bowed, not looking at anyone. Jared reached out, trying to grasp a clear image of his mental state. Chris' feelings always confused Jared somewhat, but now, he had no idea. Jared looked up at Tom to find his friend already staring at the pale man.

"Chris," Tom asked. "You okay, man?"

He didn't look up, didn't move. The entire group grew more concerned. 

Jared looked at Jensen, felt the thread connecting them vibrate, and open up. As one, they turned to Chris, and the entirety of the man unfolded before them.

Jared and Jensen gasped loudly. The complexity of emotions, dancing in uneven rhythms astounded them. They saw his regrets, the love he had left behind, the family he had lost in the storm. The manifestation of his healing gift as he tried to put their broken bodies back together. They sensed his anger, bordering on blind rage, at having lost all he loved, at those who took their gifts for granted. His fury with himself for not being strong enough to save them.

Without even realizing it, they moved as one, flanking Chris, and wrapping him up in a tight knot of an embrace. So much pain flooded through their gift that they didn't know how to help their friend. They felt the place within him, deep in his core where so much of anguish originated, but also, where it felt raw, damaged. They realized that this was the effect on Chris for feeling what they felt for each other. What should have brought joy, happiness, completeness, had torn open every wound, every old scar and hurt, and left this strong proud man stripped and broken.

Jared felt his and Jensen's desperation welling up, the frenzied search within themselves for something, anything to help. Despite the extraordinary power of their gift, they had little to no training. The one person in the room best equipped to deal with this couldn't penetrate the thick walls Chris had built around his heart and mind.

Jared wished desperately that Tom could feel and see what they were feeling and seeing. That somehow they could channel all of this to him, so that he could help their friend. At that moment, he saw it clearly. In his mind's eye , he could see the uneven lattice of the people in this room, how their powers emanated from them, interacting. The tendrils of power, faint without the activity of use, but still very much present. He focused on Tom, whose power was very much active and largely focused on the three of them. 

"Tom," Jared spoke, his voice hoarse and scratchy. "I'm going to try something. I am going to try and link with you, okay?"

Tom looked bewildered, but he nodded his assent. Closing his eyes again, Jared and Jensen pushed out gently with their power, a single glowing strand of light, reaching out, intersecting with Tom's gift. Jared's eyes flew open at Tom's loud gasp, and then he felt it. He felt the interconnection of their gifts. He felt that despite the shock from the experience of connecting, that his friend was alright.

After that, the pair found it simple to bridge the gap between Chris and Tom. They watched in wonder as Tom processed and analyzed the situation. How he immediately, intuitively found the source, and began projecting emotions, complex chords of feeling, using them as a salve on Chris' raw wounds. Jensen could feel the desire to help Tom well up in him, and he and Jared stretched out their gift, as if to shore up their friend, lending him more power. 

To their surprise, the intensity of the emotions Tom projected did not increase, but the complexity did. They watched this gentle man performing triage on a soul. They realized they had never understood, nor appreciated the power of empathy. They intended to fully remedy that situation upon their return to the Academy.

Eventually, Chris' breathing returned to normal, he relaxed, leaning backward into the back cushion. He felt somewhat embarrassed, but more relieved. He smiled tentatively at the three men surrounding him. "I'm okay," he said. He looked around the room at the anxious faces, seeing them relax one by one.

"We're okay."

Chapter Text

The four corpses given to us to study yield little to know information about the silicates. Locomotion appears to be insectoid, with four legs to walk and two appendages they use like arms. The rigid exoskeleton is composed of crystalline structures, and light plays upon the surfaces like prisms. Energy weapon discharge is almost entirely deflected by the carapace. They are clearly intelligent but we cannot find anything within their bodies that we can identify as organs. Perhaps the entirety of their anatomy is one giant multipurpose organ. We cannot find anything resembling eyes or vocal organs. They might communicate via a form of telepathy, or possibly with scent. Without living specimens, the potential of communicating with them is theoretically impossible. We also cannot determine why psionic energy effects them.

— Autopsy report from Primus Medicus Sveren Bjorn as recorded in 3134 AT.


Thankfully, the only footsteps he could hear were his own. Jeffrey Morgan preferred to walk to his office on the Academy grounds while the classes were in session. The saluting alone could add ten minutes to his journey, and today, he did not have time for the distractions.

The scroll in his hand contained the latest reports from the battle zone. Once again, they reminded him that all of humanity were not fairing well in this conflict. The casualty numbers remained stable, but still far too high. The loss of life alone could bring him to his knees if he dwelt on it. 

The very walls of this complex forced him to face his duty. Thousands of bright young men and women filled the place with life, exuberance, with the excitement of learning who they are, and what it means to be psionic. And Jeffrey Morgan will send each and every one of them to a war front against an enemy that they have little to know chance of defeating. With each passing day, with every new data scroll from the Praetor’s office, he felt less the steward and protector, and more the executioner of every person at the Academy.

In the past few years, his visits to the campus grew increasingly infrequent. The reminders of what his office had become too painful within these halls. He had to be here, however. He had to set the assets in place to give Jared and Jensen the best possible chance they could have. 

As he rounded the last corner before reaching his office, he nearly ran into Samantha. His greeting froze on his lips when he took in her grave expression.

“You have a visitor,” she said, turning on her heel, indicating they should proceed. 

He then noted the massive silhouettes of the two protectors flanking his doorway. He felt confident he knew the man waiting on him. He hoped that he was wrong.

The doors to his office slid silently open revealing Senator Lucion Martel, lounging with far more comfort and ease at the Justicar's desk than he should. Morgan never liked the political side of his job. He was not to particularly fond of the military side either. However, the office of Justicar Psionica lay forever in the gray area between politics and military and education. Morgan possessed extraordinary gifts in both areas. However, he liked neither one. He had accepted the position because no other Adept could fill it as well as he could. The war had made it clear: the future of the Republic rested with the Adepts. And because of their importance, it meant power. And wherever power came to play, politics always followed.

The man sitting in his office represented everything he despised about the Republic. Senators, in Morgan's informed opinion , were public servants. As such, the needs of the people dominated their concern, motivated their actions, shaped their thoughts. Martel had no more interest in the needs of his constituents than Morgan had interest in becoming Consul Executus. This man desired only power, and employed deceit and manipulation to get it. Fortunately, he still ranked far from the top 25 most powerful senators in the Republic, but the Justicar had no doubt the man worked day and night to change that.

Men like Martel found the Adepts to be threatening and confounding. Lying to and manipulating a level five empath proved impossible. Finding the bulk of power in the current climate of the Republic resting on a group that such men had no influence and no prospect of gaining any influence over no doubt kept Martel and his cronies awake well into the night. Some argued that the Justicar Psionica wielded as much power at the moment as any of the Consuls. Morgan doubted this, but the argument had some weight to it. Unfortunately, he could not kid himself into thinking his office had less influence than the Praetor. The head of all the Republic’s armed forces theoretically should carry more sway than the head of PsiMin, however, as the nature of humanity's only defense grew certain, the balance had shifted. Fortunately, for all involved, Jeffrey Morgan had no designs on power, or higher office. This had oddly gained him tremendous respect and support in the chambers of Celestus, further increasing his importance.

To have this particular senator here, hundreds of kilometers from the Capital, somehow in the Justicar's secured office sent every instinct Morgan had to high alert. He understood immediately why Samantha had intercepted him, and he could be no more profoundly grateful to her for it.

The Justicar sailed into his office, walking with intent, sweeping behind his desk and dropping the scroll he carried onto its polished surface, without looking acknowledging his unwelcome guest.

"Jeffrey!" Martel exclaimed with all of the false delight he could muster. "It is wonderful to see you again. We hardly ever get to see you in Celestus these days."

Morgan noted the multitude of threats, insinuations and power plays in the one sentence. He despised these games and chose not to engage in them at all.

"Senator, explain why and how you came to be in my office?" he demanded. 

The Senator visibly paled, his bravado shaken. "A young woman showed us in," he replied, a pretense at being affronted.

"And did you , by chance, order this young woman to open the door?"

"I would never do such a thing!" Martel continued his charade. A quick glance at the Optia and Morgan knew the man had lied.

"Allow me to be clear," the Justicar began, his voice as hard and cold as granite. "If I ever catch you in any of my chambers again without my express permission, I will have you arrested."

The Senator's mouth moved as though he would argue the point, issues his denials. Morgan cut him a sharp look and whatever protest the man was formulating died on his lips.

"I assume that you have traveled all of this way and broken into my private office on urgent business," Morgan stated, voice still icy.

The senator looked at a loss for a moment, unsure how to proceed. Clearly, the meeting had gone in directions other than those he had planned. “Yes," Martel finally said ."Most urgent, so as soon as you have dismissed your staff, we can discuss it."

"Senator," Morgan began, his anger clear. "Optia Ferris is my first. Nothing happens at this Academy without her knowledge. You chose this venue, therefore you will include her in this audience or we can consider this matter closed."

He hoped fervently that the senator would choose the last option, but it was not to be. Morgan felt a faint nudge from his first, a slight projection telling him to back off, because something important was happening here. He tried to pull back, despite his desire to lunge at the sanctimonious bastard currently polluting his office.

"Do you wish to continue," he prompted the Senator.

"Justicar," the Senator began, deliberately switching to formal titles. "You have seen the latest reports from the front?"

Morgan tapped the rolled up scroll he had brought with him from the hallway. "Yes, I was just reading them."

"Then I don't have to tell you the war is not going well for us. Our newest simulations show the Republic having less than 3 years until collapse. We keep pouring out resources and assets to hold the line, but we are no closer to resolving this conflict than twenty years ago."

"I am aware of the situation, Senator," Morgan said. "What would you have me do about it."

"The only viable defense we have is the Adepts, but with the current ranks we are barely holding back the assaults. There are more Adepts in this building than on the front line. Doesn't that strike you as wrong?"

Morgan had to fight to contain his anger. "No, it does not. These are men and women we are talking about here. They are here to train and grow so that they can provide the best defense possible for the Republic. They are not weapons, and this is not a warehouse where we stockpile them."

"You would sacrifice the whole of the Republic to preserve your training regimen?" The Senator's voice had climbed in pitch and volume. Morgan thought to himself that Martel had clearly practiced this before, applying the dramatic touches.

"Your insinuation is beyond insulting, Senator," Morgan nearly growled out. "It is not nor has it ever been the policy of this Republic to send men and women into battle without proper training."

"Perhaps your definition of proper training needs to be adjusted,"

"As I am the only person in the republic able to make that distinction, we will continue with the definition as is."

"Justicar, the Praetor and I think that perhaps an accelerated process," Morgan interrupted him.

"Senator, the Praetor thinks no such thing. I am uncertain how you came to believe that he and I were of different minds on this issue, however, I am sure that we can contact him right now and clear this up."

The Senator paled, "I see no reason to interrupt his busy schedule."

"And yet, here you are interrupting mine." Morgan grew increasingly angry at each passing minute of this conversation.

"This is clearly in the best interest of the Republic, Justicar. You know it and I know it."

"Senator, do not presume to think you know my mind on any issue. You propose that I send the best defense we have against the alien threat into battle with insufficient training. What you fail to see is that by doing that, I would be destroying our best defense and handing the Republic over to the Silicates. In the simplest terms I know how to put it, this will not happen."

"I am very sorry that you will not see reason, Justicar," the Senator said with a twisted mixture of regret and glee.

"I could say the same, Senator. If you have nothing further, I must return to my duties."

Martel stood, straightening his clothing. He made it halfway to the door before stopping. “I hear that things got somewhat out of hand a few weeks ago at Quel'Alta," his tone knowing and threatening.

"Senator, Quel'Alta is perfectly fine, you need not concern yourself with it." Morgan's blood had run cold at the implications what Martel was hinting at.

"Oh, I am sure. I am certain that if you had a new weapon to use against the Silicates you would have shared it with the Senate by now."

"Senator, PsiMin does not collect nor develop weapons, you know this. You try my patience, sir. I suggest you leave now before I have you escorted from the premises."

The Senator waved dismissively as he exited the room.

When the doors had sealed, he turned to the holo console on his desk, pulling up the hall scanners, watching the politician and his entourage leave. Certain they had made it to the port, he rose from his desk and left the room with the Optia on his heels.

Neither spoke, marching intently to a different secure location. 

When the blast doors had sealed behind them, Samantha spoke, "Everything he said was a lie in one shape or another," she said. "I do not know how to make sense of the impression, but I clearly read that whatever he intended was harm to either yourself or PsiMin or the Academy. It could be a mixture of all three."

"He certainly has no designs on destroying the Academy. He may be vile, but he understands without the Adepts, he will be dead."

They stood silently their minds whirling with possibilities.

"How did he know about Quel'Alta?" Samantha asked.

"I don't know, but I intend to find out. I need my office swept, the sensor logs for every place they came into contact with from landing to departure analyzed. I want a level one scan. I want to know everything they did, everyone they contacted, and whatever devices they planted need to be found."

"Yes, sir. Do you think he knows about Gemini?"

"It sure as hell sounded that way, and if someone like Martel knows, it can only lead to disaster."

"They have checked in?"

"Yes," Morgan answered. "I heard from them last night. The others are reporting in on a more regular rotation. Have my guests arrived?"

"No, sir. They should be here this afternoon. Their quarters and IDs are ready."

"My office needs to be clean before they arrive, or at minimum an alternative workspace prepared."


“Also, Samantha, we need to activate Ora again. I want them in place as soon as possible.”

Neither officer cared for the implications of this decision, what state the Capital must be in to reduce them to this course. However, they both agreed they had no choice. Gemini was far too important to allow the webs from Celestus to entangle it. If the Republic were to have its last best hope, they had to vigilantly guard against the workings of the heart of the Republic itself.

"Inform the faculty that they need to be at high alert, but keep it quiet. I don't want to alarm the students. All of PsiMin must adopt a more vigilant posture. Particularly if we have a traitor."

Samantha nodded her understanding. The Justicar turned to activate the blast doors. They walked quietly down the corridor. The morning's events unnerved him. Training Gemini had dominated his thoughts. Every spare second he could pull away from the war and the workings of PsiMin he had devoted to that challenge. Now, he would have to find a way to protect them as well. He smirked humorlessly to himself. The precise argument he made against the Senator, proved in his current circumstances.

Gemini was so powerful that the thought of protecting them almost made him laugh. However, they were inexperienced, young, frightened. They may possess powers beyond measure, but without training and discipline, they had no hope. As Gemini fell, so fell the Republic.



Forest formed the southern edge of campus, but through the trees, less than a click away, a large crystalline lake sprawled from one mountainous wall of the valley to the other. The peaks on either side extended like giant arms, embracing the water, leaving a gap at the southern end of the lake. Even from the northern shore, some one hundred kilometers away, the break in the valley walls showed the world of Lyrea unfolding. Because of the breathtaking views, and overwhelming sense of peace the lake brought to its visitors, Adepts often made the trek there. The great Spire in the heart of the Academy could still be seen from any point on the lake or its shores, but the forest barrier created a separate world for all who would explore it.

Michael Rosenbaum rarely made the trip to the lake, but he really didn’t feel up to the grind of campus today. He walked along the shore, the cold wind off the water working wonders to clear his head. Since he returned from visiting Jensen and Jared, his daily routine felt off, and he knew that when his friend finally returned, it still wouldn’t be the same. This far into his tenure at the Academy, some things were supposed to be set, unchanging, but this term had been chaos. 

The dynamic duo, as he had taken to calling them, would return at any moment, and the tempest would come with them. He didn’t mind the notoriety that came with being pals with Jensen Ackles, even now that Kinetic’s reputation morphed from campus bad boy to mysterious figure of untold power. Mike rather enjoyed the infamy. But if he wanted to remain Jensen’s friend, he had to make room for Jared , a Medic, and his friends. 

It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.

He kicked a few stones, venting a little of his frustration, when movement in his peripheral vision pulled him up short. A massive, flat rock jutted out over the water, and perched on the end of it was Chris. The breeze set his hair fluttering behind him, and he apparently had no idea he was no longer alone. Mike begrudgingly admitted he kind of liked the Bandaid. He sure as hell wasn’t like any other Medic he’d ever met. He sighed, dug his hands down into his pockets, and decided that there was no time like the present to try and make the best of this mess.

He got to the edge of the rock, and as he put a foot up on its smooth surface, a coarse voice said , “Didn’t ask for no company.”

Mike smirked, and continued his climb until he sat down next to the other man. “And I seriously suck at doing what I’m told.”

“Yeah, I’d heard that about you.”

“When it comes to what you hear about me, only 60% of it is accurate.”

“That’s good, since I made up 40% of what is said about you.”

“Chris, can I call you ‘Chris?’ I don’t really want to call you ‘Chris’ because that doesn’t say ‘ass-kicking hoodlum.’ How about ‘CK?’ Yeah, I’ll call you ‘CK.’”

“Do you often have conversations with yourself?”

“I am a fascinating conversationalist.”

“Yeah, that was included in my 40%.”

Mike laughed loudly at that. “Surprisingly, you don’t suck.”

“Charming and silver-tongued were also in my 40%.”

“The danger about making stuff up about someone like me is that I will probably believe it.”

“Someone like you, huh? I was banking on you being unique.”

“We live in hope.”

They looked out over the placid surface of the water, the gentle lapping of the water against the shore a soothing lullaby. 

Surprisingly, Chris broke the silence. “Think they’re back yet?”

“Don’t know.”

“It’s pretty fuckin’ weird.”

“Yeah, it is. They want us to play nice, be one big happy family.”

“I don’t have a family.” 

Chris’ confession shocked Mike. “Man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything…”

“You didn’t know. It’s not something I talk about. ‘ Hello, I’m Chris Kane, my mother, father, and little sister died when they got caught outside in an Yserian typhoon.’ Makes for a shitty introduction.”

Mike just blinked for a minute, trying to take it all in. When he finally spoke, the words just tumbled out. “I bet you could get laid in five seconds flat with that intro.” He would have been horrified and more than a little scared if Chris hadn’t busted out laughing.

“Yeah, I suppose I could at that.”

“I’ve been to lower Mesius. You lived anywhere near the capital?”

“No, we lived in a small town near the southern pole.”


“How the hell do you know about Warsaw?”

“I grew up on Tanaes. And yes it is every bit as awful a shithole as you have heard. My parents are merchants. I think they tried to make up it up to us for forcing us to live in hell by taking us with them on their business trips. We went to Warsaw when I was about 8 years old. I remember thinking how cool it would be to live in that cave.”

“It’s really not all that great.”

“I know that now, but I would choose it over Belustu any day.”

“I guess the grass is always greener and all that shit.”

“There’s no grass on Tanaes, dumbass.”

“Well, that makes Warsaw’s grass pretty fucking green in comparison, then.”

Mike laughed and Chris joined him. 

“It might not be so bad, you know,” Chris said. “When they get back.”

“You think?”

“Yeah. Surprisingly, you don’t suck.”

“Hey, I don’t put out on the first date, so save your flattery.”

“Your virtue was in my 40%.”



The soft hum of the hatch opening, the gentle whoosh of air as the cabin depressurized, three steps and it was time. They pulled their packs up tight on their shoulders, and stepped out onto the hard stone floor of the landing pad. It had only been three weeks, but somehow felt much longer. The glistening pristine white blanket that had covered all of Ouray Valley for as far as they could see in any direction was behind them, some five hundred kilometers north. The snows wouldn't fall here for another week at least. As much as they loved the small Alpine town and the people that inhabited her, this felt a great deal like coming home.

Optia Ferris stood waiting for them a few meters away from the pad. Neither man could help the bright grin they both sported at seeing her. They bounded toward her, restraining themselves from hugging their superior officer. They could tell that she was tired, stressed, and tense, all in higher degrees than when they had last seen her a week ago. They knew she would not offer up the reasons, but they hoped they could glean the causes on their own.

"The Justicar is waiting for you," she said, after returning their salutes. The trio walked through the heavy lock doors, and headed toward their commander. Jared and Jensen looked at each other. They had no idea what awaited them, but they both felt that somehow, their lives were beginning.



Many fellow cadets and faculty members greeted them happily during the course of their journey through the labyrinthine grounds. Only a few emitted a sense of hesitancy, fear or even outright anger. Jared made careful note of each.

They biometric lock on the Justicar's door ran through its protocols, a process that took longer than either man remembered, and finally they were face to face with their commander. 

"Jared, Jensen, it is good to see you back," Morgan said enthusiastically, rising from his chair behind his desk and moving toward then, the three guests in his office seemingly forgotten. Both men could not hide their surprise at the warmness of the welcome. The Justicar had come to mean a great deal to them, more so than was common place with a commanding officer. Any hint that the affection was returned warmed them through.

"It is good to be back, sir," they answered in unison. Morgan and Ferris smirked, the others present looked hesitant. 

"Please, set down your packs and take a seat, we have a great deal to discuss," Morgan ushered them into the seating area of his office. Once unburdened, they sat down, close to each other on one of the sofas. They got their first clear looks at the other Adepts present.

The three of them were all young, but older than either Jared or Jensen. The man who introduced himself as Misha, stood not quite as tall as the two younger men, but not short by any means. His hair was a wild mess of short blond and brown, his piercing light blue eyes seemed to convey every thought and feeling in his head. They sensed immediately that he was an empath, and a powerful one at that. Misha radiated a calm almost Zen like quality. It made them instantly like him.

A woman with chin-length dark brown hair introduced herself as Sasha. She was strikingly beautiful, her brown eyes light to the point of almost being amber danced in the afternoon light pouring through the picture windows. The pair focused, trying to read her clearly, and after a few moments, they suspected her to be a Deflector. 

The final man to introduce himself oozed a coarseness, a rugged almost aggressiveness that stood out in stark contrast with the others. He held out a calloused hand, his handshake firm to the point of nearly painful. He had brown hair, tanned skin and dark brown eyes. His name was Archon, and Jared and Jensen had no idea if they liked him or loathed him. In fact, they had no idea what to do with him whatsoever. Jared briefly closed his eyes, summoning the vision trick he had learned at the cabin, and saw the man's energy. Archon was a thrower. He was not as strong as Jensen was even before the bonding, however, he clearly had a razor sharp mind, making him formidable by any measure. 

"Jensen, Jared," the use of their full names jolted them to attention, focusing on the Optia.

"These are your mentors. They are master level in each of their disciplines, and all have just concluded a tour at the front. They will work with the two of you and only the two of you for the foreseeable future. You will no longer attend drills with your fellows. You will drill in a private arena in the annex between Medlab 2 and the underclassmen dorms for each of your sessions. Apart from the change of venue and faculty, your schedules will remain unchanged. You are expected to perform satisfactorily in your usual studies, and the Justicar and I will be personally reviewing the reports from your mentors. Do you have any questions?"

The news came as quite a surprise to both of them. They had suspected that drilling with their peers would never happen again, however, to be taught by veterans of the war, and undoubtedly highly skilled ones at that, floored them both. 

"Are our rooming assignments the same?" Jensen asked.

"No," the Optia answered. "You have been assigned new quarters that you will share. Following this briefing, I will take you to them to unpack your gear."

"If you have no more procedural questions, I would like you and your mentors to ask any questions of each other," the Justicar stated. 

Misha smiled at them, a truly contented and happy smile.

"You are already blocking," he said. "Is there a reason you block constantly?"

"We aren't sure why, but we seem to project non-stop," Jared answered. "Even without consciously trying to project, which we can do, our normal emotions broadcast, and even non-empaths can feel them."

Several startled faces looked back at them. "Is this a new development?" the Optia asked.

"We aren't certain, ma'am," Jensen answered. "After the debacle in the infirmary, we didn't lower the block until that day in the arena. When we did, it became clear that everyone around us felt it. We've just maintained the block since then."

"I understand that at Quel'Alta you shielded," Sasha said. "Do you remember the process? Anything about erecting the barrier?"

Both young men shook their heads, nervous at their disappointing answer.

Sasha looked at the Justicar, "You said that this shield deflected all energy including waveform?"

"Yes," he answered. "We can't be certain but it might even have blocked air."

Both young men felt Sasha's calculating gaze. 

"What training do you have in empathy?" Misha asked.

"Very little," Jared answered. "We can block and project to an extent, I don't know that either technique is particularly refined. Oh, at the cabin, one of our friends needed projection therapy, but his barriers were very strong and the empaths with us couldn't read him. We figured out how to link up with Tom's gift and sort of bridge it into ours."

Dead silence greeted the announcement. Jared and Jensen suddenly felt very uneasy, as though they had done something unspeakably wrong and not known it.

"This process worked?" the Justicar asked. 

"Yes, sir," Jensen said. "We were able to sort of patch Tom into what we were seeing with Chris. After that , he could see clearly what was wrong."

"And we could augment Tom's gift," Jared added.

"Optia Ferris, could you please get Decurion Welling?" the Justicar asked. Ferris nodded and headed out.

The two young men still felt as though they sat under a microscope. The announcement had made everyone present uneasy, but the array of reactions from distaste (Archon), confusion (Sasha), delight (Misha), and concern from the Justicar prevented them from assessing whether this new ability was a good or bad development. 

"Sir," Jared asked tentatively. "Is there a problem?"

The Justicar shook his head. "No, son. We have never seen anything like it before. Every Adept reports visualization with their gift. You are saying that you can visualize others' gifts as well as your own and interact with it. Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir," Jensen answered.

A rude snort of disbelief came from the far seat. They turned to see Archon glaring at them with disdain. 

"Do you have something to add, Centurion?" the Justicar demanded.

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" the rough man asked.

"Within reason."

"They are playing you. I don't know what kind of tricks they got up their sleeves, but everything you've told me is fiction. And I'm concerned that it's gotten this far."

"Careful, Centurion," the low warning tone of the Justicar drew the younger man up short. 

Jared and Jensen felt as though they had been dropped into the middle of a quarrel they wanted nothing to do with.

The Justicar looked appraisingly at them. "Would you care to demonstrate this belief?"

Jared and Jensen looked nervously at each other, the move followed by a snort from Archon.

"Sir, we won't do this unless we have the consent of the other Adept," Jensen said. 

"I'll give you consent," Archon said.

"I will as well," Misha added.

With a nod of approval from their commander , they closed their eyes, focusing on the energies coming out of the two older men. Ruling out using Archon's kinetic abilities for safety sake, they connected with Misha and then Archon's mind. The link established, they uncovered a series of particularly painful emotions from the Kinetic, fresh and raw and obviously from the war. Misha gasped audibly, and the two young Adepts felt certain they heard a whimper from Archon. 

They mentally nudged Misha to begin the projection, and then bolstered his power. In seconds they immediately sensed the difference in skill and experience between Misha and Tom. The projection looked like a constantly moving and flowing intricately woven spiderweb. A hundred different tendrils, each resonating with different emotions undulated, weaving around and through each other and gracefully enwrapping the psychological scars of Archon. They felt as Archon began to calm, the projection restoring a peace he had not known in a long time.

They broke the link when Misha had finished, opening their eyes to see the four senior officers staring at them in disbelief.

"We think we can do it with any gift," Jensen cautiously explained. "But the empathy gift seemed safer to demonstrate."

The Justicar stared at them stunned. He knew, without doubt, that these two young men would change the course of the war, but the idea that they could augment the entire Adept battle corps put an entirely different complexion on everything he and the military commanders thought they knew about how to fight this war. 

The sound of the door opening and Optia Ferris and Tom entering shook him out of his daze. Tom looked concerned, but the moment he set eyes on his friends, his grin lit up the room.

Jared and Jensen sat on the edge of the sofa, bouncing slightly. Morgan grinned and released them to greet their friend.

The embraces were enthusiastic to say the least. While the three cadets reconnected, the five adults exchanged weighty glances. 

The Justicar said very softly. "I warned you that this would be a challenge. They seem to be evolving and growing every day. This is the sixth new ability they have manifested, and they aren't even trying."

The three mentors nodded their understanding, their eyes never leaving Jared and Jensen.

"This is a tight rope," Archon said. "You all know that, right?"

"No," the Justicar stated firmly. "You can dismiss that thought from your mind. There is one course, one path, and you three are going to help them walk it."

"Yes, sir," Archon said. 

"Decurions," the Justicar addressed the still chatting young men. They immediately stood at attention, taking their seats again as their commander gestured. "Did anything else happen in the Mountains? Something new or unexpected."

Jared and Jensen shook their heads. "The only other change, I guess, is that the connection between us got stronger, is getting stronger."

Morgan looked up at Ferris, acknowledging that her suspicions had been confirmed. 

The Optia broke the silence. "I will show you to your new quarters now. Tom, you may accompany us, as you all three share the next class."

The three young men rose to leave, and suddenly something nudged at the back of Jared's consciousness. He looked at Jensen, they both felt the same strange sensation.

They turned to look back at the still seated Adepts, the Justicar raising an eyebrow for them to explain.

"Sir," Jensen asked. "What is 'Gemini?'"

Again, startled expressions stared back at them.

"Were did you hear that, son?" Morgan asked. 

"We don't know," Jared answered. "Just now, we got the impression, that word, but we don't know from where."

Sasha leaned forward, addressing her commander. "Sir, I just thought it. They apparently got it from me."

Misha whispered "Telepathy?"

The Justicar turned to look at his charged. 

"To answer your question, Gemini is you."

Chapter Text

Of any encounter with the enemy, the Battle of Thuban Prime remains our only great clue. It was the first major battle, and the first and last time the enemy attempted a ground invasion. When the 48 alien warships emerged from TL, they routed our ships, destroying them, and then they landed over 2,000 ground troops on Thuban Prime. We learned their ground strategy: scorched earth. We learned what they looked like and how they moved. We learned their great vulnerability: psionic energy. We have used that knowledge to our greatest advantage. Unfortunately, it is precious little upon which to base a strategy. Especially a strategy as vitally important as this one. 

— Transcript of Media interview with Praetor Holis Andres, as entrusted to Journalist Jjon Kent in 3130 AT


The Optia had led them to an annex behind the administration building that held, among other things, her’s and the Justicar’s offices. Fortunately, it was a short walk to the eastern upperclassmen dorms where their friends all stayed. Their new quarters were about three times the size of their old ones, even though it housed only one bed. They had a massive com panel on the wall, a large table with four chairs, and a sitting area with a comfortable-looking sofa and two overstuffed chairs around a low table. Tom whistled, poking fun at their deluxe accommodations. Jared ended his ribbing by reminding him that he now had the glorious privilege of rooming with Michael Rosenbaum and his unending bag of insanity. They had to hurry to unpack, getting things put away in case their quarters were inspected. 

The three friends walked quickly to their next class. Tom kept smirking at them. 

"You have a code name," he said, grin wide and bright as all outdoors.

"Dude," Jared hissed. "If anyone overhears you, Optia Ferris will have your ass."

"And not in the fun way," Jen chided.

"Dude, gross!" Tom made a ridiculously funny disgusted face. "She's old enough to be my mom."

Jared and Jensen laughed and the trio continued to cut up with each other the rest of the way to the auditorium.

Tom couldn't help the joy bubbling up in him. He and Jared had never been separated for as long as they were this time. Having his friend back set his world to rights. He knew how standoffish he had been at the beginning, equal parts distrust and jealousy toward Jensen, but he knew now, understood to the best of his ability, that whatever negative ideas he had about Jensen being in Jared's life were utterly groundless. Yes, they both had changed, but to his eyes, for the better. He couldn't be anything other than happy for his friend, and the fact that he had gained a group of new friends out of the deal suited him fine. 

Jared and Jensen kept their block up constantly, but he could tell his friends were watching him and Erica closely. He could tell from the looks they exchanged and the smirks that they were rooting for him and the brunette to take the step to something more romantic. Truthfully, he knew she would have no problem taking the next step. The problem was him. 

So much had changed in such a short time, he knew he wasn't ready to deal with more changes. Erica was amazing, no doubt, and they got along better than he had gotten on with any previous lover. It certainly could become more, he just didn't know if he could make that last step. Yet.

For now, he just wanted to bask in the joy of having his friends back, and tucking in for whatever came at them next.

Truthfully, his friendship with the two men had a certain halo effect. The mystery surrounding them, and all of the extraordinary circumstances that seemed to follow them around had transformed into infamy, then fame and now celebrity. Tom had been catapulted up the social ranks at the Academy, and liked it as much as he loathed it. He was a friendly guy. Anyone who spent longer than twenty seconds in his presence knew that. He loved people and being around them, but being a high level full empath lay bare all the motivations behind people who wanted to get close to him.

He struggled with how to deal with the conniving way a number of his fellow cadets sought to use him to get close to his friends. He despised ingenuity, and he was seeing more and more of it every day. The dark side of the whole ordeal left him cold. He had felt more than a few angry, jealous, fearful reactions to the return of Jared and Jensen. The news spread like wildfire, and the emotional storm surrounding it left him feeling dizzy. Whether elation or anger, no emotional response to the news was weak. 

So far, he hadn't had any time whatsoever to warn his friends about the social climate, and the celebrity surrounding them. He knew that both men refused to read him without his consent. He only hoped that if push came to shove, they wouldn't hesitate. Maybe he could guide them through the chaos. He certainly hoped so.

The walk to class ended too quickly to get into any of the details. As the doors parted, a sea of faces turned to stare. Tom, standing at their back, leaned between them and said, "You guys are kinda famous now. Thought you should know."

He couldn't help the mischievous grin, especially when two elbows came straight back into his stomach. Neither blow hurt too much, but he still squeezed his friends' shoulders playfully.

Jared and Jensen spotted a small group of their friends sitting at the back of the auditorium. They had barely started the climb up the stairs when the professor entered the room. The lecture began, and the students all turned their attention to the front. Only a few people occasionally glanced back to them.

The attention made them both slightly uncomfortable, but they had honestly expected it. They had blown out the side of the classroom core. That doesn't go unnoticed. They both hoped that the furor would die down, allowing them to return to their normal lives.



The cafeteria was precisely how they remembered it: loud, crowded, and home to abysmal cuisine. Two weeks of Jensen's and Loretta's cooking had utterly spoiled them. They forced down the meal, knowing that they would need the energy. Their friends had gathered round them, all feeling relief and happiness at being back together again. Jared and Jensen were delighted to see the group had bonded further, all of them making allowances and room in their lives for each other. They had learned the topography of this new terrain, how each player fit in, how to interact, and everyone seemed to be happier than before.

Jared was in the middle of telling the table a story about Loretta chasing Jensen around the cafe with a wooden spoon, when he felt something. It was a dark feeling, anger and jealousy and resentment. He and Jensen locked eyes, then looked swiftly at Tom as if to confirm. 

"Guys," the tall empath said. "Some people aren't particularly keen about you coming back. Most people are, but there are some."

"Like Gryon," Jensen said. He hadn't truthfully thought about the arrogant young man since the incident during drill. It felt like a lifetime ago, but right now, he could feel the hatred rolling off of him. Gryon was coming closer, and he was bringing friends.

Jared and Jensen decided to just ignore them, which worked up until the point that someone punched Jared in the back of the head.

"Don't ignore me, you little bitch," Gryon spat out through clenched teeth. 

Jared's head rang and therefore Jensen's did as well, however, Gryon had not managed to move another inch before he and all of cohorts shot up off the floor and found themselves pinned against the ceiling. Muttered curses and screams to let them down fell on deaf ears, as Jensen checked Jared out. The moment he knew that Jared would be okay, the anger boiled up in him. His blood ran red, and the entire building began to shake. The cries from above turned into screams of agony.

In the middle of it, Jensen began to panic. He had no control. Whatever was pouring out of him, he had no ability to stop it. All he could feel was anger and fear, and unspeakable power roiling up through him out of his core. For a moment, he feared that it would never stop, that he would tear the world apart. 

Then Jensen felt the tug - the pull - from Jared. Strong assurances of, "I'm okay.", "Calm down.", and a "I'm right here.", then suddenly the connection seemed to jerk into life, like a hose quickly filled with high pressure water. The thread between them grew wider and then wrapped itself around him.

They didn’t know how long it actually took. It felt like several days, maybe longer. It couldn't have been longer than a few seconds. However, for that day/second, whatever barriers existed between them disappeared. They held on to some sense of self, but the entirety of them enveloped them both. They had become one person, with two different forms. Somewhere, across a great distance, they heard voices. They knew them, but couldn't place them. The words they spoke seemed unfamiliar, like something out of a dream. But the noise became more insistent, the incomprehensible words more frantic. 

Finally, they felt Tom, they felt him battering against their block with everything in him. When they came back to themselves, they found the whole Academy, students and faculty, staring. Some in shock, some in wonder, some utterly confused, but every eye fixed on them. It took them a moment to clear their heads, the memory of the joining still overwhelmingly powerful and fresh. Tom had wrapped them both up in his arms, murmuring nonsensical sounds of comfort. 

Jared whispered, "What happened?"

"I don't know," Tom answered. "You were glowing, both of you. Brighter than anything I've ever seen."

They felt the presence of the Justicar behind them. It pained them to break free of the embrace the warmth and safety of it. The world felt cold and unsure after what they had experienced. The Justicar looked concerned, but not angry.

Jensen spoke first. "I'm sorry, sir. I failed you again." Morgan raised an eyebrow as a signal to explain. "Sir, he hurt Jared. He hit him in the back of the head hard, and I completely lost control, sir. I couldn't stop."

Jared grabbed his arm. "But you did stop. You stopped when I asked you to."

"Decurions, we will continue this discussion in my chambers," Morgan interrupted. "But first. . ." He pointed upward.

Jared and Jensen looked up and saw their attackers still pinned to the ceiling.

"Oh, sorry," They both yelled out in surprise. Immediately, the eight young men were free-falling to the stone floor below, Jensen breaking their fall at the last moment, leaving them suspended a half meter above the floor. Then he dropped them. Jared struggled to hide his smile.

"Optia Ferris," the Justicar barked out. "Take these men to the infirmary and then to the brig."

Eight very disgruntled voices protested, silenced by one gesture of the Justicar's hand. "You assaulted superior officers without provocation. You will be lucky if I don't throw you out of the Academy. Get them out of here."

Jared and Jensen followed the Justicar out of the cafeteria sheepishly, wondering what punishment he had in store for them. 



The explanation of the new manifestation met with the same reaction the Justicar had given all the others: fascination and caution. They asked if he wanted them to segregate themselves from the other students. 

"No, I have no intention of separating the two of you from the rest. However, I am hopeful that today's display will dissuade any others from confronting the two of you."

Jared and Jensen nodded, still rattled from the afternoon's events, and from the violent reaction of some of their peers. 

"Jared, are you all right? Did he physically hurt you?" the Justicar asked.

"He did, sir, but I healed it."

The older man sighed, leaning forward in his seat. "I never approve of Adepts using their abilities on each other outside of designated drills. I am letting this slide because everyone present witnessed the attack, and also witnessed Jen going into some sort of rage. Part of your training from here on out is to gain full control over your talents. So far, we have a number of dangerous situations in which you lost control. I am willing to give you both the benefit of the doubt that this pattern will not continue. 

"I know that Gryon and his friends instigated this, and they will be dealt with severely. I need you both to understand that if this unpredictability of yours keeps up, I will have to remove you from the Academy, for the safety of the others. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," they both answered softly. 

"Boys, I believe that whatever it is you are becoming could be the most important thing that has ever happened to the Republic. But in so many ways, we are playing with fire. I need you to exert every possible effort to learn control."

"Yes, sir."

After they had been dismissed, they walked quietly down the hall, shoulders touching, heads down. They had to figure out a way to deal with threats from their peers without destroying the whole damned campus or worse, killing someone. They would figure it out together, of that they were sure.

But first, Drills. Archon was waiting.

Chapter Text

“Power corrupts. This ancient adage keeps us awake at night. 20 generations of cadets, and we have never had one commit a major crime. We take pride in that accomplishment, and we dread it. We are nothing if not pragmatic, and probabilities dictate at some point, a psionic will fall to the seduction of his or her own power. Everything we do at the academy is to forestall that day, and we know that every day, we are closer to it happening.”

-- Testimony of Optia Samantha Ferris, during Senad Gemini Hearings, 3134 AT


Their coms showed a path to their class they had never traveled before, no small feat, especially considering Jensen’s twelve year stint on the Academy campus. Neither man wanted to consider the implications of their new tutor choosing a venue so far off the beaten path. Their new classroom laid as far away from the classroom core as it could be and still be on the grounds. Jared nudged Jensen, sending assurances down their connection. The hike from the administrative building to the annex took fifteen minutes, part of the time spent trying to navigate unfamiliar corridors until they stood in front of the largest set of blast doors they had seen on campus. 

The whirring of the massive locking mechanism echoed loudly around them, and six thick layers of plastinium doors unfolded like an elaborate puzzle. Peering through the growing aperture of the door construct, they saw a massive and brightly lit industrial bay. Whatever it housed in the past long gone, the enormous space now housed Archon, flanked by two imposing looking machines. Their instructor’s dark eyes gave away nothing of his intent. His lack of any outward movement only unnerved the young Adepts further. They drew themselves up into the rigid posture of cadets in the presence of a superior. Halting two meters in front of Archon, they stood at attention, waiting for any semblance of recognition of their presence from the older man.

The seconds ticked by, stretching on uncomfortably, but neither cadet would give the man the satisfaction of showing any sign that the silence bothered them in the least. Eventually, Jared began poking at Jensen with his abilities, the prickle of energy dancing along his skin. Jensen responded in kind, both missing the minute shift of Archon’s features, the slight twitch along his lips. 

Finally, the older man moved enough to draw his charges' attentions back to himself. Reaching behind one of the mammoth machines, he pulled out an utterly ordinary large rubber ball. Holding the familiar orb out in front of him, the cadets stared blankly at him.

“I have seen the recordings and sensor logs from Quel’Alta,” his even basso voice rumbled through the cavernous empty space. “I know that you are quite capable of tossing around massive objects. Now we will see if you possess enough command over your gift to handle something on a smaller scale.”

Without a pause, he dropped the ball. As it bounced up off the hard floor, he said sharply, “Freeze it in midair.”

Jensen immediately honed in on the trajectory of the ball as it arose higher off the floor. He reached out with a counter force to halt its assent. The ball smashed into the floor, bursting with a deafening bang. Jensen stared thunderstruck at the decimated remains of his target, a flush climbing up his neck, cheeks and ears. 

Jensen’s mortification disturbed Jared only slightly less than the smug look of triumph on Archon’s face. Jared stared balefully at his tutor, and reached a decision. An idea had taken root in his mind some weeks ago, but he had never tested it. Now, if nothing else than to spare Jensen further discomfort, he cleared his throat to catch Archon’s attention.

“Do you have something to add to this exercise, Decurion?” 

Jared made no attempt to conceal his dislike of this man. War hero or not, he needed to be knocked down a peg or twelve.

“Yes, sir,” Jared answered sharply, the portrait of a good cadet. “I would like to attempt the exercise, sir.” 

Archon’s eyebrow arched, either communicating his delight in humiliating another up and comer, or out of surprise, Jared didn’t know, nor did he care enough to try a read. Jensen frantically sent him thoughts of, “You don’t have to do this.” and several mantras of, “I’m okay.” The officer reached for another ball, dropping it in front of Jared without warning.

Jared stared at the bouncing ball, focusing the entirety of his abilities on the smooth rubber surface. Time seemed to slow to nothing, and he made his first attempt to weave the energies around the ball in the same way he had seen Jensen do it on many occasions. The first tendril of power flowed out of him, spiraling around the now frozen in mid-air orb. Immediately, more glowing threads flew forward joining the first. A complete net of glowing strands encased the ball. 

He felt encouragement and pride flowing to him from Jensen. As one thread moved dangerously away from the ball, threatening to unravel his hard work, Jensen nudged him, guiding him. The web solidified, holding fast. As time returned to its normal flow, Jared watched with great satisfaction as the ball stayed perfectly still four feet above the floor. His joy only magnified by the gobsmacked expression on Archon’s face. 

“Is that satisfactory, sir?” he asked, once again in handbook-perfect cadet speak.

Disbelieving dark brown eyes cut back and forth between the two young men. “You are not registered as a kinetic, Decurion Padalecki. That is a serious infraction.”

“With all due respect, sir. I have never done anything like this before. Until I asked to attempt the test, I had no clear idea that I could do it.”

Archon stared at him, appraising his words and trying to weed out a lie. Sensing none, the tense line of his shoulders relaxed almost imperceptibly. “And how exactly were you able to manifest a kinetic gift now?”

“Sir, I have seen Jensen do this on numerous occasions. The way his gift works, orders energy, I know what it looks like, and suspected I might be able to duplicate his efforts.”

“Decurion Ackles...” Archon turned his attention to young kinetic. “Can you explain why a medic could complete this task and you could not?”

Sensing the trap, Jensen looked directly into the older kinetic’s eyes. “Sir, I am attempting to unlearn 12 years of habits and reflexes that the academy drilled into me. My normal actions and reactions are now greatly amplified. I will strive harder to overcome my training.”

Jared fought the laughter bubbling up inside him. 

Archon reached for another ball. “Do it now, Ackles,” he barked as the ball hit the floor. 

Jensen felt Jared’s calming presence flowing over him through their link. This time, the tendrils of power flowed effortlessly, forming a web of such precision and beauty, Jared inhaled sharply. Jensen returned his attention to his tutor. “Is that to your satisfaction, sir?”

Archon looked less than pleased at Jensen’s success. He nodded curtly. Jensen unraveled the web and the ball fell to the ground, shattering into tiny shards. Jensen stared in shock.

“What in the hell…“ Archon’s voice trailed off as he dropped to one knee, peering intently at the pieces of the formerly rubber ball. He reached out, picking up one of the fragments. Before he lifted his hand more than a few centimeters off the floor, he hissed, dropping the fragment and clutching his hand to his chest.

Jared broke rank and was at the older man’s side immediately. “Let me see,” he said, pulling the damaged hand toward him. “Frostbite?” He said with a mixture of wonder and horror. Archon looked as stunned as he is. Jared rubbed gently over the four frostbitten fingers, healing them from any damage.

Archon rose to his feet, and Jared returned to Jensen’s side. “Explain yourself!” the older man demanded of Jensen. 

Jensen’s eyes had not moved from the remains of the shattered ball. He slowly looked up, meeting his superior’s eyes. “Sir, you asked me to stop the ball from moving. There is no movement. Even the subatomic particles are no longer moving.”

Jensen struggled to maintain his composure, but Jared sensed his shock at this development. Archon looked furious.

“Are you being clever, Decurion?” he demanded. 

“No, sir!”

“Then explain yourself!”

“Sir, I only tried to halt the ball’s momentum. I had no idea it would also halt subatomic movement, sir.”

The older man stared long and hard at the cadets. As though determining the truth of Jensen’s statement, he glanced down at the fragments on the floor. Reaching into a pocket of his utilities, he pulled out a hand scanner, waving it over the debris. 

“This just isn’t possible,” he said, mostly to himself. “The molecules are still motionless. Even in our best labs, matter only stays at absolute zero for billionths of a second.”

Jared looked over at his counterpart, trying to prevent his own sense of alarm from broadcasting. Finally, Jensen seemed to snap out of his stupor. He stared at the floor, and Jared saw him restoring the matter to its natural state. The hard, brittle pieces visibly changed, returning to their typical state of elasticity. Archon stared at the young kinetic. 

Jared asked, “Sir, permit us to try something?”

“What did you have in mind, Decurion?”

“I would like to see if Jensen can reassemble the pieces into a ball.”

Jensen’s head snapped around, staring at Jared as if he’d lost his mind. Jared gave him a reassuring smile, nodding toward the remains. At Archon’s consent, Jensen breathed deeply, relaxing. He saw the pieces, even the microscopic ones. He saw the patterns, the bonds between the molecules, and in an instant, he saw the design of the web of energy needed to reunite the broken pieces. 

The ball rematerialized before them, slowly rising off the floor. Once reintegrated, a meter in the air, Jensen released his hold on the object. It fell to the floor with a thud, lying there. 

Jensen blushed. “I forgot the air,” he stated quietly. 

Archon stared in wonder as the flattened shape inflated. 

As if to test his creation, Jensen mentally lifted it into the air and gently dropped it, a satisfied smile on his lips as the ball bounced, as though it hadn’t moments before been in a hundred tiny pieces. Jared nudged Jensen’s shoulder, pride evident on his face. 

Archon finally caught the ball, turning it over and over in his hands, looking for any sign of defect. Finding none, he gingerly placed it on the rack with the others. He looked back to his pupils, his expression inscrutable. 

Jared wanted to try and read him, but a firm, “no” from Jensen restrained him.

“Decurions,” Archon said quietly, the two young men jumping to attention. “You are dismissed for today.” The older man didn’t move as they exited the bay. At the final click of the locking mechanism falling into place, he opened his scanner and examined the once destroyed ball. He dropped his hand to his side, and activated his com.

“Morgan here.”

“Sir, we need to talk.”



Alona walked into her Political Science IV course much as she had walked into every class she had ever taken at the Academy. She kept her head down, looked for a seat in the middle of the auditorium, and moved quietly to take it. Today, however, as she surveyed the room for a seat, she found Nazomi Takamura waving and smiling brightly at her. She shyly waved back, taking a minute to register that Nazomi was actually beckoning her to the empty seat beside her. She cautiously made her way to the proffered seat, feeling out of her depth. 

As she sat, Nazomi gave her an assessing look. “How do you make yourself appear small?”

“I’m sorry?” Alona stared at her.

“You are somewhat taller than I am, and yet, you possess the ability to make yourself appear much smaller. Is this one of your gifts?”

“I don’t really follow you.”

Nazomi continued to study Alona, searching for artifice in her words. “It is a remarkable ability,” she continued. “You have been in this class with me for the entire term, and yet today is the first time I noticed you. It is as though you do not wish yourself to be noticed.”

“Oh,” Alona answered softly. “Well, I think I am just very shy.”

“You are an empath, yes?”

“Yes, a sensing empath.”

“Perhaps you use empathy to block notice of you.”

“I don’t,” Alona started, then stopped, considering what the other woman suggested. “I had never considered that before.”

“You are quite fascinating,” Nazomi said. She reached out and tucked a stray lock of Alona’s golden hair back behind her ear. “And quite lovely. I cannot understand why you seek to be unnoticed. Perhaps you can explain this to me.”

“Is this you hitting on me, or just standard getting-to-know-you chat?” Alona asked incredulously.

Nazomi’s dark eyes sparkled with laughter. “I think that if I attempted to hit on you, you would flee the room.”

“So you are very forward, and I am very shy.”

“It is a very nice balance, don’t you think?”

“Nazomi, I have never met anyone remotely like you.”

“Nor I you. I think we shall be great friends.”

Alona laughed, a light tinkling sound. “If it were anyone else, I would say they were being presumptuous. But you? I have no doubt it will happen just as you say it will.”

“You are also very wise,” Nazomi teased back. “I think your accent is Lyrean.”

“Celestus,” Alona answered. “I was born and raised there.”

“Are your family in politics?”

“No, my parents are scientists at the Institute. I can’t place your accent.”

“It would be difficult for you to do so. My brother and I are citizens of Faedia, Preteil, but our parents spoke the ancestral language of Japan.”

“You speak ancient Japanese?”

“Fluently, but it affected my accent when speaking Standard.”

The professor entered the auditorium, and the light-level fell, the holoprojector activated, and the class began. Alona would often glance over to her companion, studying the girl. The Takamura family commanded great respect throughout the Republic. Honda and Hoshi Takamura had architected multiple molecular construction facilities on at least seven worlds. Their precision and almost obsessive attention to detail undergirded their designs, and the Takamura method was studied in multiple schools of engineering. 

With that biographical sketch, Alona could begin to piece together some of the “why’s” behind Nazomi’s forward behavior. If anything, it added to the fascination factor of this black-haired beauty. Alona also noticed that often when she would turn to look at the woman, black, almond-shaped eyes would be stare back, one corner of her mouth pulled back in a knowing smirk. 

When the lights finally came back up, and the students began shuffling out of the auditorium, Alona sat still. Nazomi rose and stopped in front of Alona’s desk. She stood there in silence for several long moments, until Alona finally glanced up at her.

“I will wait until you are ready, and then we shall go to midday mess,” Nazomi said with finality.

Alona smiled in spite of herself, and rose to follow her new friend.



Jensen and Jared walked in quick strides down the vacant corridor, neither speaking, the events of the past half hour weighing heavily on their minds. Turning the corner, they nearly ran over Misha, leaning against the exit door frame, legs crossed at the ankle, arms crossed, a smirk on his face.

“How was class, boys?”

The cadets stopped and smiled at the older man’s warm and charming disposition, a radical contrast for their last lesson. 

As if sensing the tension around them, Misha amped up the smile to an even brighter level. “Walk with me.” He spun on his heel, sunlight pouring rich and golden through the opening doors. 

The pristine alpine air chased away some of the darker shadows hanging over them. Without realizing, both young men smiled, serenely and contentedly. They caught up to and flanked Misha in a few long strides, and the trio strolled unhurriedly across the quiet landscape. 

“You didn’t answer my question,” Misha prodded. Jared and Jensen both looked sheepishly away. “That bad, huh?” 

“I don’t think Centurion Archon likes us very much,” Jared quietly answered.

“Centurion Archon,” Misha parroted back, his voice a caricature of the older kinetic’s. “Don’t let him get to you. He’s not that bad once you get to know him.”

“What about until you get to know him?” Jensen asked.

“He’s a miserable son of a bitch,” Misha laughingly replied.

“Well, that certainly makes us feel better,” Jared teased back. 

“I live to serve, gentlemen.”

They settled into the sounds of the rustling of the trees, feeling somehow lighter. After several comfortable minutes, Jensen asked, “Where are we going, Centurion?”

Misha froze mid-step, staring at Jensen as if the young man had just produced an offensive sound. “Centurion?”

Suddenly on uncertain footing, Jensen was unsure how to respond, “Did I mistake your rank, sir?”

Misha blinked at him several times, then cried out, “SIR?!” 

It was Jared and Jensen’s turn to stare blankly at their superior.

“Listen,” Misha began. “The only time I want you to call me by my rank or by ‘sir’...” he sneered as though smelling something particularly unpleasant. “is when we are around others that would consider it insubordinate to call me anything else.” 

Jared and Jensen nodded at Misha, receiving the order. 

Misha rolled his eyes at them. “You really need to cut that out.” 

“So, umm, what should we call you?” Jared asked. 

“Misha is my name,” Misha smirked as the cadets looked particularly frightened at the prospect of addressing him by his given name. Fixing them with a mischievous look, he spun around and took off running with surprising speed.

It took several seconds before the younger men realized they needed to follow him as they had no idea where they are supposed to meet him for their lesson.

“Centurion!” Jensen yelled after him. Misha made no sign of having heard him. Jared yelled even louder than Jensen. Trying to pick up their speed in an effort to catch him, Jensen finally shouted out, “Misha!”

Misha spun around, a blinding smile like the cat that got the cream. “You called?”

The cadets stopped in front of him. 

“Okay,” Jared panted out. “We get it. No ranks. No titles.”

“Aww,” Misha grinned. “You like me!” Throwing his arms around their shoulders, he shepherded them on. “We are going to be the best of friends. I can feel it!”

Jared and Jensen just shook their heads and smiled. Maybe the day wouldn’t be as bad as they had feared.

The spire rose sharp and imposing from the concentric circles of the classroom core. Six crystalline beams shooting up from the four hundred meter diameter circular reflecting pool, twisting around each other in an elaborate helix, tapering gently to points finally meeting to form the sharp summit. It had become the symbol of the Academy Psionica, sunlight refracting thru the structure in an intricate choreography of light and shadow. 

In the years Jensen and Jared had been at the Academy, the sight of the spire never lessened in its impact. They stared bemusedly as the crystal tower grew closer with every step. As far as either man knew, the spire served no purpose other than to steal the breath away of its admirers, yet Misha kept pressing on, passing hallway after hallway in the core. They followed him out of the exit and onto one of the eight pathways that hovered over the water surrounding the tower. He finally stopped in front of the base of one of the beams, turning to face the younger men.

“So,” Misha began. “Before I take you to your new classroom, I have to swear you to secrecy. Do you solemnly swear on your honor and on the souls of any unborn children you may or may not have that you will never speak of this super secret location to anyone forever and ever amen?”

Jared and Jensen looked at each other, grinning, before looking back to Misha whose expression was as sober as a judge.

“Umm, we swear?” Jared asked.

At Misha’s nod, they pledged their oaths, and he tapped the com panel on his wrist in an elaborate pattern, and the world disappeared.

In an instant, they found themselves surrounded by crystal walls and breathtaking vistas of the mountains around the Academy peaking through the gaps in the helix. The cumulative effect robbed the newcomers of their voices. 

Jared spoke first, turning wide eyes to their teacher. “How?”

Misha smiled brightly, oozing satisfaction. “This room has always been here, but its only accessible by teleporter and only then if your biometrics are cleared to be here. Which yours are, by the way. In the future, you can just walk up to the base and key in your passcode, and voila! The view to end all views.”

“This is just,” Jensen began haltingly. “Wow.”

“Isn’t it though,” the brightness of Misha’s voice betrayed his wide smile. 

The cadets wandered from view to view, constantly touching the crystal pillars, running their hands up and down their cool, perfectly smooth surfaces. The whole of the Academy grounds sprawled out before them, a symmetrical pattern of structures, clearly crafted by man but lying in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The six portals showed a different and equally precise and beautiful view of the handy work of men and nature. 

“I can feel the breeze, but it's not cold,” Jensen observed, his voice hushed in awe.

“The shields between the columns warm or cool the air as it passes through the tower,” Misha explained. “This chamber remains at this temperature year round.”

Jared stared intently at one of the supports, “This is not crystal.”

“No, even our finest crystallographers can’t grow them this large or cause them to curve and spiral like this. This is just good old fashioned glastinium,” Misha answered.

Jensen paused, turned and looked appraisingly at the older man. “May I ask what you did in the war?”

“You may,” Misha replied. “My primary role was as a projector. My peculiar ability is to broadcast intense feelings of calm to a large number of people around me. You would be surprised how vital that sensation is to fighting off merciless attackers. Ironic, isn’t it?”

“Can you only project calmness?” Jared asked.

“No, but I can’t transmit any others with the same strength I can with serenity,” Misha explained. “You will find that almost all projecting empaths favor one emotion above all others. Usually the one he or she is most comfortable and familiar with.”

“So, you are going to teach us to project tranquility?” Jensen inquired.

“Not exactly. No one can project what they do not have. Before you can share a feeling with others, you must properly foster it within yourselves. I am going to teach you both the art of placidity. How to keep it with you at all times, never allowing outside stimuli to steal your peace. The Justicar brought me here for this express purpose, and I promise you it will be the most worthwhile skill you will learn, and the most difficult to master.”

The bright passion in Misha’s pellucid blue eyes gave gravitas to his words. Jensen and Jared knew he meant every word. 



The setting autumn sun filled the room with the shade of pale gold unique to the last days of fall. More times than Justicar Morgan cared to think about, autumns at the Academy had soothed him. The age worn routine of each class’ promotion to a new rank, the arrival of the brand new Adepts taking in the sights and sounds of their new home with awe, fear and wonder. It felt so very permanent, as constant and steady as the tides. It afforded him the luxury of forgetting for a moment that the survival of everything he loved hung precariously on the brink of extinction. It granted him a tiny reprieve from the crushing responsibility on his shoulders to save them all.

But for the first time in longer than he could clearly recall, something fluttered in his chest that felt suspiciously like hope. A fool’s hope, probably. He couldn’t guess at the odds of success with so many unknowns and hypotheticals at play. The immediate path before him allowed only one step at a time. He needed to use all of the resources at his disposal to best prepare these two young men for the staggering task and responsibilities that will soon press down on them.

The subtle chime of his door sensor broke him from his reveries. “Come.”

Jager Archon walked in without looking up, his attention fixed on the scanner in his hand. Whatever data the device contained clearly upset the centurion. He finally looked up at his commander. As he opened his mouth to speak, Morgan cut him off.

“I want to debrief when all three trainers are present.”

Archon knew better than to press the issue, but he didn’t have to be happy about it. Fortunately the proximity sensor went off and at Morgan’s command, Sasha walked into the room. Before she sat down in one of the chairs around the conference table, Misha walked in followed closely by Optia Ferris. They all took their seats, waiting as the Justicar continued to stare out the window. When he spoke, his voice was soft, but his tone firm and unyielding.

“I will operate under the assumption that all of you are now very aware of the significance of the tasks I charged you with. For now, we have to push the mysteries to the back of our minds, and focus on the things that we can affect. Gemini aren’t like anything we have ever seen before. Not even close, but the potential of what they can become and can do could end this war, save billions of lives. Hell, they could save humanity as a whole. As hopeful as that potential is, things could go equally wrong. The three of you have not been away from the Academy that long. As long as you are here, you operate under the guiding principle of this institution: to equip all Adepts to serve the greater good with their gifts, their minds, and the work of their hands. Regardless of Gemini’s uniqueness, this stands. If anything our mission is more vital than ever.

“When this group is assembled here, we will dispense with formality, with ranks and pecking orders. We are peers, working toward one common purpose. In this room, we bring to bear the fullness of all our resources to achieve that end. Am I clear?”

A chorus of assents filled the room. With a final glance out the window, Morgan turned from the view and sat in the vacant seat at the head of the table. 

Archon sat his scanner down, resting his forearms on the smooth, glossy table surface. “Padalecki manifested kinesis this afternoon” he said, allowing a moment for the revelation to sink in before continuing. “I was working with Jensen to try and establish greater control over his talent. I told him to stop a bouncing ball in midair, but he hit it with such powerful down-force that it hit the floor and burst. Jared asked if he could try, and after several bounces of a second ball, he succeeded. I have no idea to what degree he can use kinesis, but this was an impressive display of power and control.”

“Considering the connection between them, maybe they can manifest the other’s abilities,” Samantha offered.

Jeff watched the faces around the table. “Misha, you have something to add?”

Bright blue eyes flashed to him, obviously less than thrilled to be put on the spot. “I don’t have enough data to really support this theory,” he paused, looking down at the sky’s reflection on the table top. “They could be master Adepts.”

“Could you explain what you mean by that?” asked Sasha.

“It's a theory, nothing more,” Misha explained. “It's the idea that eventually we would see an Adept that manifested all of the known talents.”

Several doubtful faces looked back at Misha, but strangely, Jager wasn’t one of them. 

“There’s something else,” the kinetic started. “When Ackles tried the exercise again, he succeeded. But when he released the ball to fall back to the ground, it shattered on impact. He stopped the movement of the ball itself, but he also stopped all movement within the ball.”

“What do you mean?” asks Samantha.

“I mean that nothing, not even the molecules and subatomic particles were moving. When I picked up one of the fragments, it flash froze my fingertips. Padalecki healed them, but all of the pieces of the ball remained at absolute zero until Ackles did something to them and they returned to their elastic state.”

“You are saying that Ackles is also a microkinetic?” Samantha asked. 

“He’s saying that Ackles is the most powerful microkinetic we’ve ever seen,” Jeff answered.

“I can’t even begin to explain it,” Jager continued. “Those fragments should have returned to room temperature almost immediately. He wasn’t doing anything, just staring at the broken pieces. To maintain absolute zero without a constant influx of power to hold the particles still? It's impossible.”

“And yet, he did it,” Misha said mysteriously.

“Not only did he do it, he reassembled all of the fragments back into a ball. He even filled it with air. I spent an hour scanning the damned thing, and it's better than the original. There are no seams. It is absolutely, perfectly uniform down to the last meson. 

“If we had any doubts, this should end them,” Jager continued. “They are dangerous. Incredibly dangerous, and every day that we work with them to increase their mastery over their talents is a day closer to when they turn on us with the full force of that power.”

“What are you suggesting, Jager?” Jeff asked.

“I am telling you we are playing around with a time bomb. As it stands now, without them getting any more powerful, they could either enslave the whole of our species or destroy it. We need to take action now, before it gets out of hand.”

“And precisely what action do you think we should take?” Samantha asked, the hard edge of her voice evident. 

Jager glared back at her, steeling his resolve. “Euthanization.”

“You can’t be serious!” Misha shouted.

“I’m deadly serious,” Jager growled.

“What the fuck happened to you, man?” Misha demanded. “What broke you like this? Because you have to have a special kind of damage to suggest we put down two HUMAN kids like they are inconvenient dogs.”

Even Jager looked taken aback at the furious response from a man he had only ever seen be the image of calm. 

“Enough,” Jeff interrupted. Misha sat back down but still looked coiled tight as though ready to leap across the table to strangle the kinetic. “Jager, I am concerned as to why you would suggest something like that.”

Jager looked down at his hands, clenched tightly together on the table. “We’ve never seen anyone manifest so many talents, and none at this strength. If we don’t try to train them, they will kill people without even trying. If we train them, they could kill thousands of people easily, on a whim. We are taking high yield explosives and refining them and rigging them up in a perfect package to wipe out anyone and everything that stands in their way. Can you honestly tell me that when they are in full command of their powers that you could maintain control over them? There is nothing that could be done to them. If you could even get them into a prison cell, no prison would hold them. How long before they realize that, and take advantage of it?”

Silence swallowed up the room. Jeffrey looked from face to face, seeing if any of these men and women could posit an answer to Jager’s concerns.

“You are asking for guarantees that can’t be given,” Misha answered with surprising calm. “With every successive generation of Adepts, we have grown more powerful, and you know as well as I that those who would seek to preserve their own positions of power have asked those same questions. The kind of psychosis you speak of is not something that springs up overnight, no matter what kind of power is involved. 

“It's a flaw in the foundations of character. I don’t expect you to know or understand what I’m saying, but every sensory empath knows exactly what I mean. Not only do Jensen and Jared lack the key characteristics for that kind of destruction, but these two have been specifically prepared for the burden they are being asked to bear.

“I’ve never ascribed to source theory, but these men have been mentally and emotionally linked since birth. The extraordinary gifts they have come with a built-in check and balance system. If we were dealing with one individual capable of this kind of power, I would consider what you are saying, but we aren’t. We have a pair, and not just any pair. They are incredibly well-adjusted, and are coping with this avalanche of changes better than any person in this room or any other could.”

“Well said,” Samantha added. “I don’t want to hear any further talk of this distasteful subject again.” The Optia rarely ever pulled rank, but her words echoed with the finality of vault door slamming shut. 

“Jager,” Jeff said calmly. “Will you be able to work with Gemini given your concerns?”

Jager drew himself fully upright and answered, “Yes, sir.”

Jeffrey watched Misha’s icily appraising glare. “You have something to add?” he asked the empath.

“I have not spent a great deal of time with Jared and Jensen, but what I have seen has impressed me,” Misha passionately stated. “It can’t have escaped any of our attentions that this is the exact kind of development we have desperately sought, to reverse the tide of this war. I have no fear of the boys, but I do have a great deal of fear for them.”

Jeff nodded. “They are some of the brightest cadets we have. I don’t doubt that they haven’t figured some of this out for themselves. They could single-handedly give us the advantage over the silicates. Jager, I understand your concerns, I do. Even disregarding the human rights issues, we must follow this path to wherever it leads us. The question in front of us is simple: how do we best prepare them?”

Sasha leaned forward, preparing to speak for the first time. “I haven’t had a chance to work with them yet, but I have combed through all of the data gathered about them from the explosion in the corridor till today. They outstrip our abilities by exponential factors. I think the best we can do is help them find means to control their abilities. Beyond that, we have to get very creative.”

Jeff gestured at the table before him. “The forum is open. What do you have in mind?”

Chapter Text

The silicates have shown not only a chilling ruthlessness in their strategies but in their willingness to sacrifice millions of their own kind in this war. The number silicate dead outnumber our own casualties by four to one, but with every battle their tactics change, sometimes subtly, sometimes more overtly. The introduction of our psionic defense strategy has slowed them, holding the front, but we have seen no slowing in their relentless assault. We have lost so many Adepts, and at a faster rate than we can replace them. In time, they will erode away our only hope at survival, at unfathomable cost to us and to their own species. The whole of our governance is focused acutely on the Academy Psionica, desperate prayers on all of our lips for some miracle to emerge save us all. It is not much hope, but by its nature, not much is required to keep us pressing forward.

-- Interview with Praetor Holis Andres, as entrusted to Pontifex Jorj Larett in 3141 AT



A battery of five low energy bolts from the blaster in Sasha’s hand hit the shield surrounding Jensen and Jared, diffusing into ripples across the protective surface. Beads of sweat glistened on Jensen’s brow, the strain of maintaining the shield taking its toll. When the last bolt dissipated, the shield and Jensen collapsed. Jared braced his friend, pulling his panting form into his side. He could feel Jensen’s fatigue as if it was his own. 


Jensen moaned, and Jared shot a murderous look at their mentor. Before either could protest, he saw Sasha tighten her grip on the blaster a moment before pulling the trigger. Out of a deep seeded sense of protectiveness for his counterpart, Jared threw up a shield instinctively. He watched in shock as the blasts hit the shield then splintered into branching arcs of power, spreading out, over and around him. The shield no longer required him or Jensen to power it, instead feeding off the power of the blasts before finally dissolving into nothing.

“Decurion Padalecki!” Sasha yelled. “Explain.” 

“Evocatus, as you did not see fit to allow Decurion Ackles a moment to recover, I reacted out of instinct, to protect him.”

“The silicates will offer no reprieve from their assault. Do not expect any from me,” Sasha replied coldly. “If Decurion Ackles is unable to complete this assignment than you will in his stead. Again!”

The bolts instantly flew at him and Jared erected a shield identical to the one before it. He propped the shield up for a moment before Sasha’s next attack. The blasts came more quickly and in greater number, and his shield held. 

He saw the older woman dial up the power on her blaster. He checked the shield one last time and the next barrage hit. He was stunned to see the shield grow stronger with each impact. This time, he didn’t have to do anything to shore up the shield before the next salvo.

He saw Sasha’s growing frustration that she was having no effect on him. She dialed the blaster up again, and increased the number of shots. Long minutes passed as she continued to step up the bombardment and soon the edges of the shield were visible, glowing with absorbed power. 

Jensen watched this with wide, fascinated eyes, watched the sparks and threads of energy dancing along the perimeter of the shield. His own fatigue forgotten, he couldn’t pry his eyes away from the patterns of light, a gnawing suspicion that something unprecedented was about to happen. Something probably not good.

Ten shots of the blaster at maximum slammed into the shield, and the resulting infusion of energy triggered the reaction. He barely had to time to yell, “Incoming!” before it began. Sasha hit the floor hard as a massive wave of energy scorched the air where she had been standing only moments before. The shield was gone, all of its stored energy discharged in a three hundred-sixty degree wave along a plain a meter above the floor. It crashed harmlessly into the blast walls. 

Sasha jumped to her feet, dusting herself off before turning a studious look at her charges. 

Jared and Jensen braced themselves for an epic ass-chewing, but instead, she asked them if they could duplicate that shield at will. 

Jared stammered out, “I believe so.” Jensen nodded as well. 

Sasha holstered her blaster and grinned rather wickedly. “Good.”

The young men both released the breaths they had been holding, but a swift movement drew their attention back to their tutor.




“Puppies? Really?” Jensen’s incredulous glare was almost enough to make Jared burst into laughter. He probably would, but Misha had traded in his laid-back-zen-guy hat for meditation-drill-sergeant. Their mentor stared both of them down.

“I really like puppies, okay? They calm me,” Jared huffed. “Besides, they like to play in that great big empty prairie you dropped us in.”

Before Jensen could respond, Misha cleared his throat. His bright blue eyes, filled with laughter, betrayed the severe expression on his face. “This will be at least twice as difficult for the two of you. I only have to deal with my own thoughts, emotions. You are dealing with each other’s as well as your own. Find a compromise. Jensen, learn to love Jared’s puppies. Jared, learn to love Jensen’s wide open spaces. If you are fighting against each other, you will never achieve calm.”

Both young men sighed deeply, then closed their eyes and started again.

The rustling of tall grasses filled Jensen's hearing. The breeze brushed his face and immediately, he felt more at ease. Before he could open his “eyes” to see the rolling landscape, he felt something cold and wet brush his hand. He looked down and saw a wriggling, tawny body, tail wagging wildly, and liquid brown eyes. 

He sighed, and looked up to see Jared seated in the deep grass with three more of the little critters crawling over his legs. Jared’s smile rivaled the sun’s brightness and warmth. 

Maybe Jensen could work with this. He settled beside Jared. Immediately, two of the pups clumsily leaped over to him, and he didn’t have to fake a smile. Jensen buried his fingers in their soft, warm coats, and felt Jared nudge his shoulder. A gesture that had come to mean, “I’m here. Things are good.”

And Jensen believed. He believed that despite the crushing burden they shouldered, despite the endless wave of changes that kept crashing over them, that here, in this moment, things were good. That maybe, as long as he had Jared by his side, they could be good, for a long time. Maybe a lifetime. 

With the pups crawling all over them, the wind gently ruffling their hair, the susurration of the grass playing a lullaby, they shared a feeling of profound peace. The passing of time had no meaning, and a distant voice calling their names was an unwelcome intrusion. The voice grew more insistent, demanding, and Jensen felt a puff of air in the crook of his neck. Jared was curled up against him, and Jensen’s arms were wrapped around him. 

Never before in his life had felt this soul-deep rightness. The universe was as it should be, and he fought to hold on to this paradise as something tapped against the edge of their shared consciousness. He felt Jared stirring in his arms, slowly dragging a begrudging Jensen with him back to wakefulness. 

Sensation flooded in on Jensen. The timbre of the breeze was different, the sounds of bird song, the absence of the gentle rasp of seas of grass. He opened his eyes last and saw pellucid blue staring back at him. The sight of Misha staring back at him, a satisfied smile on his lips, brought Jensen fully into wakefulness. 

“You found it,” Misha said. 

Jensen blinked a couple of times, his sluggish mind finally processing the older man’s words. He nodded, and noticed Jared nodding in his peripheral vision. 

“You were in a level 5 trance state, which is very promising. The first discovery of your anchor place is always the most difficult, and for many the most impacting. In the coming weeks, you must grow intimately familiar with your anchor. You need to be able to summon it in varying degrees of wakefulness. Our goal is to be able to channel the calmness and clarity into states of heightened awareness.”

Jensen rubbed a hand down his face, clearing away the last cobwebs dulling his mind. “I don’t really understand,” he said. 

“Even though the depth of your trance was powerful, you still have very little control over it. It took several minutes of high level interference to pull you back. That is of little value, but it is a critical first step. Through training you will be able to go into a deeper trance, up to a level 9 or higher, but remain connected to the outside world sufficiently to exit the state with ease. 

“That feeling of peace and calm that you experienced there, we can bring into your wakeful state at will. The more you use that ability, the easier it will be to summon it, and the more difficult it will become for external stimuli to dispel it.

“Most people rely on adrenaline and other chemicals to fuel them through high stress situations. That is of some value, but it drastically impairs higher brain function, and by extension the fullness of your abilities. You must be in full command of all of your resources at all times, regardless of what is going on around you.

“Now, describe to me you anchor.”

Jared immediately dropped his head, one hand tucked under his crossed legs, the other nervously picking at the hem of his utilities. Jensen watched him, sensing his embarrassment at having to explain to their mentor the intimate position they had been in when Misha tried to break the trance. 

“It is a field of wild grasses stretching off in all directions as far as we can see,” Jensen softly explained. “Jared’s puppies are there, soft and warm, nuzzling our hands and arms and legs.” His warm baritone trailed off.

The silent seconds that follow seem to last forever, Misha watching them closely. Finally, he broke the quiet. “The anchor is a very personal, intimate place. There is no shame in it. I suspect since you share a place, that you experienced a sense of physical closeness.” The uncomfortable shifting of the cadets’ postures, the averted eyes answered his question. “I ask about your anchor to help you hone it, to eliminate any extraneous elements, and help make it as easy as possible to summon. Not to embarrass you.” Misha paused, a look of calculation on his face. He took a breath and continued.

“We know that you two are fucking.” He grinned when he heard Jared choke. “If you weren’t, we would be concerned. No one needs to know the details, but you need to get beyond whatever modesty you are clinging to about your relationship. If your anchor includes sexual contact, we need to change it. If all you get up to is a bit of snuggling, then that’s superb. It’s a series of sensations easily and instantly recalled.”

“It’s,” Jensen cleared his throat before continuing. “Its just the, umm, snuggling part.” He could tell their mentor was working valiantly to keep from laughing out loud. Jensen was thankful, for Jared’s sake, that Misha exhibited some restraint. 

“That is something we can definitely work with.”



Tom and Erica drifted between laughter and worry at Jensen and Jared’s struggle to stay upright and conscious during mess. Erica leaned over and whispered to Tom “Should we keep them talking? Maybe they will finish their meal that way.”

Tom snickered and said, too loudly, “Jensen!”

Jensen jerked awake, knocking Jared’s head off his shoulder where he had been snoring and drooling moments before. 

“So how are classes?” Tom asked brightly.

Jared yawned voluminously, stretching his long arms. “Hard.”

“They are wearing you out?” Erica asked as though the proof wasn’t sitting in front of her.

“Yeah,” Jensen answered. “They’re kind of relentless.”

Jared nodded, his eyes getting heavy. 

Tom nudged his friend’s foot under the table. “Eat up man.”

There was a tug of war to keep the two cadets awake for the duration of their meal. Tom and Erica silently agreed to escort their friends back to their quarters. Jensen and Jared stumbled through the door, and their friends followed, peeling the two out of their boots and most of their utilities. As they left, they saw the pair curl into each other, locking together like two halves, and Tom swore he heard Jensen mumble something about puppies. They turned out the light as they exited.



Jared felt utter and complete peace and contentment. The gentle breeze dancing in cool puffs along his whole right side. His left was soaking up the perfect warmth and softness of Jensen. They were twined together, and Jared’s hand was gliding feather-light along Jensen’s arm, his flank, his shoulder. Whatever else may be in the infinite universe, the best of it all was right here. 

Jensen smelled of the wind and the prairie around them, but more so a salty sweetness that he couldn’t identify by name but would recognize anywhere as the smell of his other half. Jared was certain there were worries and burdens and toil somewhere for both of them, but they remained phantoms, vapors on the edge of his awareness that he could not be troubled to call into substance. 

He pressed his lips to the side of Jensen’s neck, the throbbing pulse point there lulling him deeper into bliss, the cadence forming the most rapturous sound he’d ever heard. He felt Jensen’s lips, soft, dry, full and perfect, pressing gentle kisses at his temple. 

He never wanted to leave this place, this time, Jensen’s arms. 

A shadow blocked out the sun, and Jared furrowed his brow in protest to the unwelcome intrusion in his idylls. The sun failed to reappear and he opened one eye to see the source. At first, he only saw a dark blur, but it slowly resolved into a familiar shape. Piercing blue eyes and a fond smile. He closed his eye again, snuggling deeper into Jensen’s warmth.

“Jensen, you dreamed Misha in here,” he mumbled against the other man’s neck. “Make him go away.”

“Didn’t dream up Misha,” Jensen mumbled. “You send him away.”

“Neither of you dreamed me up,” a lyrical voice from above them responded. “I am here to pull you both out of your happy place.”

“Go away,” Jensen grumbled. “S’our happy place. No Mishas.”

“You’ve been asleep for 18 hours.”

Jensen and Jared were wide awake inside a second. The bucolic sanctuary replaced by the stark walls of their quarters. They saw their mentor, sprawled out in the chair beside the bed, his feet propped up on the edge of the mattress. 

“You two are adorable,” he said through a blinding smile. 

Jensen tapped through his com, discovering that they had indeed been in a trance for 18 hours, a flood of messages from instructors, friends and superiors. They began with inquiries, proceeded to tirades and threats, and ended up with concern and panic.

“You don’t need to worry,” Misha addressed Jensen. “The Justicar took care of your classes and the Optia placated the small herd of cadets threatening to bust in here with a plasma ram.”

Jensen looked upset, relieved, and worried all at once. Jared stared at Misha.

“You were in the anchor with us,” he stated with a note of accusation in his voice.

“You are also in our quarters,” Jensen added.

“Officer override,” Misha responded, fingers toying with the crease on his utilities. “As to the other, it was unfortunately the lesser of two evils.”

He looked up to find two sets of eyes staring at him intently. “Some empaths have the ability to enter the trance state of others,” he explained. “Its frowned upon for many valid and good reasons. In this situation, my options were: try to pull you out of a level 9 trance with no code trigger, and given that I would probably have been splattered against this wall behind me with a kinetic blast that reduced me to the consistency of a puree, or try and enter the trance and pull you out that way. I chose not puree.”

Jared and Jensen shrugged at the same time. “Point,” Jensen said. 

Jared climbed out of the bed and worked through a series of bone-popping stretches. “I don’t understand how you could get into our anchor.”

“It wasn’t easy,” Misha stated. “Ferris was the first to open the door and come in here, but she only got a step inside the door before she was almost lost in the contentment you two were broadcasting. She managed to get out and call me. Your shields were almost non-existent, so I found an in and took it.”

Jared nodded, and began gathering up a change of utilities. Misha stood and started moving toward the door.

“Shower, change, and come to my office,” he ordered. “You have missed mess but the cooks will bring meals for you there. I’ll see you in half an hour.”

The door closed, and Jared and Jensen were left staring at each other.



Misha stared in fascination and horror as the two cadets plowed through what he thought was an impressive spread of food the mess had brought to his office. 

Jared and Jensen sat back, finally sated. “So, we are here because--?” Jensen’s voice trailed off waiting for Misha’s response. 

The older man leaned back in his chair, his legs sprawled out in front of him. The late afternoon light set every window-facing surface in warm gold and drawing out long shadows behind them. Misha’s office was neither as large nor as opulent as the Justicar’s, but it had a coziness and warmth the superior officer’s lacked. 

In all, Jared thought it suited the man, and he felt Jensen’s agreement. 

“You are here because what happened last night was dangerous. Several of your fellow cadets told me that when they last saw you, you were both dead on your feet. What I don’t understand is why you would enter into a high level trance.”

“We didn’t,” Jared said. “Well, not deliberately. I don’t really understand what happened, just one minute we were falling down on the bed and the next we were in the anchor.”

Misha was silent for several long minutes, staring at a point in space. 

“We have a pattern. Every time I or any of your other instructors set a task before you, you perform that task then do it a level exponentially higher than what we had thought possible. We think that we are challenging you, stretching your abilities to the point that you will have to struggle to achieve the goal. You struggle once or twice and then leap wildly ahead.

“Any trance level above 3 should never be attempted without a coded trigger, a word or a symbol that can reach you through the trance and pull you back into reality. Normally, that is something I work with empaths to create after a year or two. You are not supposed to be able to summon high level trances in a state of exhaustion in a few seconds of wakefulness before you fall asleep.

“And from what I’ve been told by Jager and Sasha, the same pattern holds with what they are teaching you,” Misha paused, pondering. He looked up and addressed his charges. “This is a dangerous situation. To you and to others. The problem is I have no idea how to break this cycle.”

“Misha,” Jared interrupted. “Maybe we can help with that.”

Misha looked up and Jensen picked up where Jared left off. “Can you teach us how to do the trigger thing? And then maybe Jared and I can work together to try and find a way to control all of this a little better.”

Misha looked them both over, weighing his decision before finally nodding and rising from his seat. “I’ve already cleared your afternoon with the Justicar, so we will work on this as long as it takes for you to get it.”



“You’ve gone too far,” Misha said for the third time. “You are still hitting level 3 or higher. We need a one, here. Submerge again, but try to maintain presence in the now.”

The first hour had Misha working Jared and Jensen through using dampened shields, to allow Misha to permeate them without being buried in the deluge of their projections. The following two hours consisted solely of the cadets going too deep into a trance, and Misha exercising their new trigger and trying to guide them into a waking trance. 

“Think of it like water,” Misha explained. “You don’t want to dive down deep. You want to skim just below the surface.”

The two cadets tried again, clearing their minds, trying to slow the rate of their descent into the anchor. Normally, the transition was so quick they experienced nothing between complete wakefulness and total submersion in the anchor. This time, they focused the whole of their energies into prolonging the transition, and hopefully stopping it before they sank too far.

What happened instead changed everything.

“Whoa!” both young men cried out. 

Misha tried to feel out what they were experiencing, but nothing was coming back clearly. “You aren’t deep enough” he said, but his voice trailed off as he watched the rapt expressions on the young men’s faces.

“It's incredible,” Jensen whispered in awe.

The shapes and forms of the familiar world hollowed out, revealing their insubstance. Crystal vessels filled with swirling eddies of light and particle where people stood, where they themselves stood. Floating, drifting, whirling through it all were motes of light, traveling in streams of like colors. They dance in varying density and intensity. The matter containers all held the light, but some, those unmoving, unchanging things, held much less. The sunlight shining down was an intense stream of white grains spilling down up on the floor, puddling where the stone could not contain them, and drifting off where the air could. 

In the middle of the room stood a nebula, an undulating amorphous whirlwind of colors, dancing in maelstroms all over and around the core, a congregation of light so intense that the particles merged indistinguishable into a glowing mass. Waves of every imaginable shade of green rolled out from the center, to be curbed and turned and pulled back inward. They had never seen anything so beautiful, and they realized at the same moment, they were seeing Misha.

Their shared gasp, and a solid psionic tug by their mentor pulled them back into the material world. They sat there, mouths agape, robbed of speech.

Misha immediately grew concerned. “What happened?” he pressed. “What did you see?”

“I...” Jensen gasped. “I don’t know.” Jared shook his head. 

“You weren’t in your anchor?”

Both cadets shook their heads. Misha’s concern grew, but then Jared placed a hand on his arm.

“It wasn’t bad, Misha,” Jared said in a hushed, reverent voice. “It was beautiful.”

“Then what was it?” Misha asked.

“I don’t know,” Jensen said again. “It was here, but it wasn’t. I’m sorry. I don’t know how else to describe it. I don’t think I can. We were here, in this room with you, but it was like everything was made of light.”

“You were beautiful,” Jared blurted out, instantly turning red. “I mean, in that place, you were this cloud of specks of light.”

Jensen nodded, unable to add to Jared’s description.

“Can you go there again?” Misha asked. 

“I don’t know,” Jared answered. 

“We can try,” Jensen added.

The third attempt found them back in that mysterious place. They stared in wonder, taking in everything they could see. Jared felt drawn to the heavy flow of the sun pouring through the windows, an urge to touch, to hold a handful of the silvery motes rose up strongly within him.

Without so much as a twitch of his hand, the sun sparks changed course, flowing straight into his hand. Within seconds, he could no longer see his fingers clearly, a swarm of energy spun wildly around each finger, his palm, and started to move up his arm. Jared stared in fascination, feeling no concern, only warmth. He heard Misha calling out to them. 

“What did you just do?” Misha asked, a level of panic notable in his voice. 

“I don’t know,” Jared answered. “I thought about holding the sunbeam in my hand and it just moved.”

“Could you stop?” Misha asked.

“I think so,” Jared said, brows furrowed in concentration. The stream of light returned to its original course, the energy swarming his hand still bright but no longer growing in intensity. He felt the power brushing over his skin, and the solid world rematerialized before his eyes. The room became incrementally brighter, but the air around his hand was bright and glowing. He turned wide hazel eyes to Jensen, sensing a shock matching his own.

The only thought bouncing through their shared connection was, “Get it off!” The thought was barely echoed by Jensen before a flash of golden light flooded the room. When it receded, their eyes readjusting to the normal light, the glow around Jared’s hand was gone. 

Misha watched them both very intently. The silence within the chamber seemed to grow to suffocating levels. “What did you feel?” Misha finally asked.

“What do you mean?” Jared asked back.

“Emotionally, what did you feel while you were. . . under?”

Jared looked to Jensen, but Jensen answered for them both, “Awe. Wonder. But calm, like there were no troubles or worries. Peace, I guess.”

Misha nodded, standing perfectly still. “Go to mess, and then to your quarters. Wait for me there.”

They were dismissed, and teleported out of the Spire, unsure of what just happened and what would happen to them.



The gathering of their combined pools of friends hung on every word. Trying to describe what they had just experienced proved beyond their command of language. They rebuffed numerous requests to demonstrate. Mike seemed wholly skeptical, but Jensen maintained he would behave that way regardless. Mike’s nature was to be contrary. 

The question for which they had no answer, and the one for which they desperately wish they did, was, “What does this mean?”

The moment Erica gave voice to this, their meal lost its flavor, the echoes of the countless variations of that simple query flooding their minds. Jensen reached under the table, his hand firm and warm, laying reassuringly on Jared’s knee. Jared knew the gesture was as much to comfort Jensen as himself. 

“We don’t know for sure that it means anything,” Jensen said, unconvincingly. “I mean, it certainly doesn’t seem to be anything bad. Just different.”

“Like so many other things,” Jared mumbled under his breath. He received another squeeze on his knee.

“We’ll just deal with this like we have everything else,” Jensen added.

“Who knows?” Tom chimed in. “Maybe it will make everything else easier.”

“”Doesn’t hurt to hope,” Erica said.

“So,” Mike jumped in with more cheer than anyone present felt. “You ready for your Psi History final?” Everyone groaned, and Mike just cackled.

The mention of finals brought another issue to the fore that neither Jensen or Jared had spent much time considering. The end of the term signaled the beginning of term break, four weeks most cadets spent at home with their families. This option was out for either of the cadets. The two had no time to tackle the logistics, and certainly no time to bring their families in to the loop and try to find a solution everyone could live with. They knew they would have to decide sooner rather than later, but first, they had to get past whatever it was Misha was making them wait for. 

The group broke up as Jensen and Jared headed down the long corridor to their isolated quarters. The tension and the apprehension of the day faded slightly as they took comfort in each others’ presence. The sense of warmth and acceptance was not something either young man had acclimated to yet. For now, they were content to just enjoy the newness of it. As they neared the door to their room, they could feel a slightly agitated Misha on the other side. 

Their biometrics registered, the door slid open and they found their mentor sitting in what had apparently become his designated chair. He was spinning a data chip around his fingers, a mindless movement.

The cadets stood more or less at attention, waiting for the superior officer to recognize them. When his eyes moved over to them, he stood and dropped the chip into his pocket. He beckoned them to follow him as he exited the room. The two shared a concerned glance and turned to follow him.

The course Misha traveled headed for the Justicar’s office. Neither man knew if they were in trouble or something potentially worse. As they passed one of the common areas where cadets gathered between classes and duties, Misha stopped abruptly. Jared and Jensen felt sudden tension and apprehension rolling off Misha, but before they could track what he was sensing, he was off again. 

By the time they reached the Justicar’s office door, Misha was locked down tight. That more than anything alarmed the two young men. As they entered the large room, the cadets were beginning to fidget. They found Sasha, Archon, the Justicar and Optia Ferris seated on the large couches, the flames dancing in the fireplace, casting a warm glow over the four psionics waiting on them.

Misha moved to sit beside Sasha, and Jared and Jensen stood at attention. “At ease,” the Justicar’s deep voice rumbled through the quiet. “Have a seat,” he gestured to two empty spaces. The two young men sat, five sets of eyes settling on them more disconcerting than anything. “We’ve heard Misha’s account of what happened today. Do you have anything to add?”

“With all due respect, sir,” Jensen answered, “I don’t know that it's something we can explain or even describe.”

“This is just as new to us as it is to you,” Jared added. “We don’t have any idea what this means.”

“I know this is, well, startling for you both,” the Justicar offered. “We are all here to help you both. Misha is certain this development is important, possibly crucial to your training. Can you replicate what you did this afternoon?”

Jared and Jensen looked to each other, a subtle shrug and nod, a deep breath, and they felt the change, the solid becoming transparent, the veneer of the familiar slipping away, replaced by the flowing nebulae of energy and light. The configuration was different, a room full of psionics, the absence of the sun, and the flow of copper embers flowing through the room from the fire. 

Jensen reached out toward it, marveling at the graceful curtain of glowing sparks flowing up from the hearth, swarming around his hand, tripping over and around his fingers. Within a minute, the flurry of motes had increased to where he could barely see his fingers. He looked over at Jared, seeing the ephemeral outline of his smile, but more so the way his aura brightened, the green shifting silver. Jensen felt his own smile, and as Jared reached out his hand, the embers shimmered and then flew into it. A heavy stream of embers cascaded from the fireplace, whirling around Jensen’s hand then over to Jared’s. 

The light show only grew in intensity, the motes streaming in a figure eight, over and around the two cadets’ hands. Jensen noticed the brilliant blue color of his aura in contrast to the copper color of the sparks. Suddenly, as the embers came near his hand, they changed, with each pass becoming bluer until they finally shone brightly. He felt Jared’s surprise and delight, and a stream of silver-green mingled with the blue. In moments, the two colors surged, drawing more motes from around the room, their original colors shifting to blue and green.

“Uh,” Jensen stammered out. “What happens when macrokinetic and medikinetic energies combine?”

From the purplish cloud he assumed to be Justicar Morgan, he heard, “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows.”

Jensen felt Jared’s thoughts tugging at him and looked to where Jared was staring. A slowly swirling pool of dark green motes sat unobtrusively beside one of the massive windows in the room. In perfect sync with Jared, they focused on the target, and the jet stream of blue and green around their hands arced away from them, spiraling around and merging with the darker green. As the brighter vibrant motes were absorbed, the dark green spilled over, spreading out and up.

The veneer of the solid slid over the world, and the young men watched as a plant’s vines unfurled at startling speed. Vines and tendrils reaching outward, lush growth rising up and pouring over, erupting into brilliantly white blossoms.

The Justicar stood up and walked over to the plant, his fingers gently caressing the verdant leaves. “I’ve never seen it bloom,” he said in an almost whisper. The change in the man’s demeanor made Jensen and Jared smile. 

The rest of the room’s occupants remained silent, watching their commander for cues. 

“What just happened?” Morgan asked.

Jared and Jensen attempted to explain everything that transpired, even though language failed them in many regards. They felt they were able to communicate the important aspects, and their audience reflected that understanding. 

“Did it hurt?” Archon asked. 

The concerned question from the typically stern and stoic man startled the two cadets. They looked at each other for a moment and then back to the centurion.

“No, sir,” Jensen answered. “At the end, it kind of tingled a little bit, but it was barely noticeable.” Jared nodded his agreement with Jensen’s appraisal.

“How far can you take this?” Sasha asked. 

“We don’t know,” Jared answered. “This all just happened a few hours ago. So far, it really doesn’t take any effort, but I don’t know how far we can push that before it does.”

“Here, tonight, did you still feel that sense of calm that you did this afternoon?” Misha asked.

“Yes, sir,” Jensen responded. “Its very peaceful, in that. . . place. It’s just very tranquil. I don’t really know how to describe it.”

“I think that this in-between world that you are describing will be your version of a waking anchor,” Misha explained. “For most empaths, the waking anchor is an iteration of their deep anchor. For you two, this appears to be a mental state you will go to when you need to maintain calm.”

“Can you control it?” the Justicar inquired. He was still standing by the lush plant, the fingers of one hand still gently rubbing a leaf. 

“Yes, sir,” Jared answered. “Like I said, it's very effortless. We don’t have to work as hard to control the different levels of this…whatever it is as we do for our other gifts.”

“You said that Jensen has a deep blue aura around him and that Jared’s is green,” Optia Ferris interrupted. “Do other Adepts have different colors.”

“As far as we can tell, the kinetics have a blue to purple to red glow,” Jensen explained. “Empaths are more of a yellowish to gold color. It kind of looks like that as some of the abilities start to overlap, I guess, the hue changes to a mixture.”

“Are you saying you can identify an Adept’s abilities on sight?” Morgan asked. 

“Sir, I don’t know that we can answer that definitively,” Jared hedged. “So far, we have been able to identify all of you. We haven’t tried on anyone else. For all we know, we saw what we saw because we already knew what your abilities were.”

Morgan nodded. “We need to try and understand this new development,” he said. “I want to determine the limits of this ability. This exercise could prove to be highly dangerous. Anyone who wants to bow out, say so now. No one will think less of you.”

“Sir, we wouldn’t miss this for anything,” Misha said with an obvious smile. 

“I want every precaution taken, not only for the safety of the instructors but for Jared and Jensen. As I understand this, they will need a substantial power source to draw from, and a target to release the built up energy on. Take this evening to consider the options, and get them back to me. Decurions, if you have any suggestions, please let me know.” Everyone in the room nodded their understanding. 

“Misha, Sasha, Jager, I want the three of you to work together. If my suspicions are correct, all of their new abilities overlap, and the nexus is this shadow world they have discovered. The three of you will need each others’ expertise to help Jensen and Jared master their talents. If you feel you need one-on-one time with them, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their studies and they are allowed plenty of rest, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Yes, sir,” they answered in unison. 

The Justicar moved back to his seat in the circle. 

“Jensen, Jared, I know this is all overwhelming. Frankly, I doubt anyone in this room or probably anywhere else could have handled it all with the same grace the two of you have. You know that our primary goal is your safety and well-being. In turn, I need you to be mindful of the basics. If you aren’t eating enough or sleeping enough and your schedules aren’t allowing you to address that, I need to know about it. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m extending your break between morning classes and afternoon drills. You will have another hour and a half after mess. I recommend you use it for study, but tomorrow, I want you both to report to Medlab 1 for a full check up. I want you to have a full check up once every week.”

“Yes, sir.”


The two young men stood and saluted their commander. As the door slid closed behind them, Sasha moved to rise, but Misha placed a hand on her arm to still her. Morgan and Ferris noticed the movement, their attention focused on the empath.

“Sir,” Misha began in an uncharacteristically grave tone. “We have a problem.”

Chapter Text

The role of each and every Adept in our defense cannot be overstated or over appreciated. Our defensive technologies have increased by leaps and bounds in the past two decades to be certain, but while those techs have saved countless lives, we see every day that the Adepts and only the Adepts have held the line. The front has become a crucible where every virtue and every vice of our race have been tested. None so much as our very ‘humanity.’ Do we send every Adept of every age to war in the hopes that added numbers will turn the tide, or do we train them, prepare them as much as we can for the horrors of war before we send them to take on the roles of our saviors? This is not a new argument, but as our survival hangs ever more precariously in the balance, the temptation to succumb to the idea of “throwing everything we’ve got” at the enemy increases. The root question then becomes: can humanity survive with our humanity intact?

-- Transcript of Media Interview with Consul Juris Allister Carmack, as entrusted to Journalist Sari Kelra in 3165 AT.


“I am certain, sir,” Misha responded. “He’s an informant for Martel.”

“How could you tell?” Archon asked.

“Informers have distinct mental and emotional patterns,” Misha said. “That was what alerted me to his presence. As to who he works for, Martel’s people have a recognizable emotional signature.”

“Why would Martel send an agent into the single largest concentration of empaths in the Republic if they are recognizable?” Samantha asked.

“He doesn’t know I can sense them to that degree of specificity,” Misha answered. “In my time in the service, the Consul Executus recalled me several times to Celestus. He wanted readings from high level officials. He arranged it so no one ever knew I was there. The senators and consuls all bear a resemblance to their closest advisors and vice versa. I assure you, I could never forget or mistake Martel’s signature.”

“Then we can assume that Martel is gathering information about Gemini,” Morgan added. “If my suspicions are correct, he’s tapping a source here inside the Academy.”

“Yes, sir,” Misha said. “The man was talking with Millis Gryon.”

“That is not unexpected,” Samantha said.

“Misha, are you certain enough to swear to an affidavit?” Morgan asked.

“Yes, sir,” Misha answered. 

“First, we need to get this man out of the Academy and bar him from re-entry,” Samantha firmly stated.

“With all due respect to the Optia, I would advise against this.” Archon’s statement was met with a mixture of interest and incredulity. “We can assume that Martel already has information about Gemini, including their identities. What we don’t know is what he intends to do with that information and what additional data he was fishing for.”

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Sasha added cryptically.

“I will agree with your assessment, Jager, if we can control the flow of information,” Morgan stated. “The safety of Gemini is paramount. Regardless of how badly we want to know what Martel is up to.”

“I don’t see how you can meet all of those requirements, sir,” Misha said. 

“There is a way,” Samantha said gravely.

“Jeffrey,” Misha addressed his superior with startling familiarity, gravity and quietness, “Jensen and Jared, they are extraordinary young men. If there is any risk to their safety from this course of action, I want to be on record as opposing it.”

Jeffrey fought a smile. “Noted. In fact, I want you to personally see to their safety and well-being. The full resources of this team and this institution are at your disposal.”

Misha looked like he was about to object, but Morgan raised a hand to silence him. “Misha, these two young men, you are correct. They are extraordinary, and not just in their abilities. I can’t see to their well-being personally, both because it would draw unwanted attention and there are too many other demands on my time. These young men like and respect you. There is no one else I would want watching over them in my stead. And you will have Jager and Sasha at your side at all times.”

“Yes, sir,” The three officers replied in unison.

“Take whatever precautions necessary. Dismissed.”

The three exited quietly. Once the door was secure, Jeffrey turned to Samantha. “I want every log, every holo of this man since his first appearance here. I want to know everything there is to know about him. I want to know everything about Gryon’s family, whatever factors led to Martel singling him out and exploiting him.”

“I can have it all to you first thing in the morning,” she replied.

“Thanks, Sam. There is nothing about this situation that I like. I need it buckled down and brought under control, or I need it eradicated.”

“One way or another, we’ll resolve this,” she answered.

When he was finally alone, Morgan activated the room's secure settings. The windows went completely opaque, the jammers kicked on, the devices in the room disconnected from the network, and the beautiful wood inlay on the conference table shifted and slid, and a holo projector rose above the surface. In a few moments, the face of the Consul Executus materialized in front of him. 

“The situation has degraded, Tomis. He’s on treacherous ground, and I am prepared to rip it out from under him.”



They had several hours before lights out, so they decided to track down their friends. It took little effort to locate most of them in their usual study spot. The Academy had numerous common rooms, some open to all, others restricted by rank. This particular room rarely had more than three people in addition to Jensen’s and Jared’s crew. Off the beaten path, isolated, quiet, and cozy, the spot became the normal hangout for Jared’s friends not long after they all achieved sufficient rank to access it. Jensen’s circle joined them soon after the two groups merged.

Large, comfortable chairs and sofas, wooden tables that survived generations of cadets and bore the scars to prove it, and a massive fireplace made the space welcoming and somehow familiar. The large windows looking over the back half of the valley only added to the allure. Jensen and Jared had spent too little time here since the incident in the corridor months before. They hoped to remedy that.

Warm smiles and words of welcome greeted them. Erica got up to give them enough space to sit side by side. The two young men fought back smiles when she took a seat beside Tom. The happiness of the moment faded too quickly when they realized they had spent so little time with their friends they had no idea how the relationship between Erica and Tom was progressing, if it was at all. A quick glance at each other, a subtle nod, they assured each other they would remedy that from this point on. 

“So what are you guys studying?” Jensen asked. 

“Psi History,” Tom answered. “Finals are closer than we think.” 

“Yeah,” Jared confirmed. “You mind if we join you?”

Jared’s hesitancy was noticed by everyone present. “Sure, J-man,” Mike said with his usual geniality. “Besides, by what Tommy said here, you need all the help you can get.” His blinding grin and mischievous eyes further made Jared feel more at ease. 

Jared caught Tom’s eye and mouthed “Tommy?” incredulously. Tom colored slightly, ducking his head to hide his smile.

Suddenly, Jared’s heart swelled. In his years at the Academy, he could never have asked for a better friend than Tom, but despite his physical beauty and gentle nature, he made few friends besides Jared. In fact, Jared suspected their group would have consisted of just the two of them had Jared not brought others into the fray. To find one of his oldest friends beautifully integrated into a new circle, that regarded him with the same love and affection, pleased him greatly. Jensen bumped his shoulder gently, obviously sharing his joy.

“I’ve really missed you guys,” Jared blurted out and immediately ducked his head, his bangs obscuring his blushing face and misty eyes. Jensen immediately put his arm around his shoulder and drew him into his side.

“We missed you too, Jay,” Erica said warmly. 

“So Jay,” Mike asked, his tone light. “What was the name of the first Optia at the Academy Psionica?”

And just like that, all awkwardness dispelled. To the shock of his friends, Jared answered every question perfectly and with no hesitation. Finally, Tom asked what the hell was going on.

“I just know the answers now,” Jared said with a shrug. “Also, I think maybe Jensen is really good with Psi History.”

Erica narrowed her eyes. “You can give each other the answers mentally?”

“Looks that way,” Jensen answered. “Here’s hoping that Jay is better at Economics than I am.”

“Straight A’s, baby,” Jared said with a smug smile. The pair high-fived each other.

Tom dropped his scroll in his lap. “How is this fair?”

Jared laughed, and Jensen answered, “Its not like we do it on purpose. I don’t even have to think the answer sometimes and Jay gets it.”

“And trying to shut down the link between us is bad,” Jared added.

“And painful,” Jensen shuddered. “It would be like you trying to sever the connection between the two lobes of your brain.”

Most of the group equally shuddered at that thought.

“It’s not bad, though,” Jared said. “The connection. I can’t really think of anything about it that isn’t pretty awesome.”

“Yeah,” Jensen said with a smile, hand squeezing Jared’s knee. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Mike started making cooing noises, which sent everyone into peels of laughter. As the chuckling died out, Jared and Jensen suddenly sat up a bit straighter. No one had a chance to respond before Misha entered the room. All of the group, save Jensen and Jared, were on their feet saluting.

“Hi, Misha,” both young men singsonged. Normally, they would join their friends in the formal greeting of a superior, however, they could both sense the older man’s great amusement at the response. 

“Boys,” Misha said back, smiling wickedly. He plopped down into an available chair. The other cadets were frozen in place, not moving as they hadn’t been permitted to, and reeling from their friends breach of protocol. “Your friends seem very uptight,” Misha teased.

“You will probably have to set them at ease,” Jensen added. “Maybe give them the speech.”

“They need the speech, huh?” Misha grinned. “At ease, cadets. Within this group, we are friends, not soldiers.”

A chorus of, “Yes, sirs!” echoed in the room, sending Jensen and Jared into chuckles. “Don’t worry, Misha,” Jared said. “They will figure it out soon enough.”

Once everyone was seated again, the conversation remained dead. 

“I am guessing you didn’t come here to study Psi History,” Jensen said. 

“You are quite right,” Misha answered, propping his feet up on the table. “Do you lot gather up here often?”

“They do.” Jensen gestured to their friends. “We don’t get to join them very much any more.”

“We plan to change that,” Jared answered.

The only other cadets, besides their group, exited and saluted Misha as they left.

“Believe it or not, I do have a reason to be here,” Misha said. “I need to talk with you and your friends.” Everyone present was focused on him intently. “I need all of you to exercise a bit more caution. I’m assuming that you talk about what’s going on with Jared and Jensen, and that’s fine. What I am asking is that you only talk about that where you will not be overheard.”

“Rumors,” Tom added and Misha nodded. 

“There are lots of reasons to exercise discretion, but that is certainly high up on the list.”

“Do you think we can actually stop the rumors?” Erica asked.

“No,” Misha answered. “But you cannot feed them. A rumor has less weight when the source isn’t a close friend of the people being talked about.”

“Are these rumors,” Jared hesitantly asked. “Are they bad?”

“They are more ridiculous than anything else,” Tom answered. “But we really don’t need to do anything to add to them.”

Murmurs of agreement sounded around the circle. “In places like this,” Misha gestured to the room around them, “where only this group is present, talk away. I know, especially for Jensen and Jared, how important it is to have people to talk about what’s going on in your life, and what they are going through is fairly momentous. I’m not asking anyone here to remove or alter their support in any way. In fact, I want to apologize to all of you. We, the other instructors and myself, have consumed too much of Jensen and Jared’s time. I will try to make certain you have more opportunities to be with your friends.”

“Thanks, Misha,” Jared said. “That means a lot.”

Misha stood to leave. “I will see you two tomorrow afternoon, and hopefully the rest of you soon.” With that, he left. Neither Jensen nor Jared gave voice to the undercurrent of pronounced concern they sensed in their mentor. That was a discussion for a more private place.

“He’s cool,” Mike said with a level of amusement and awe. “Will you bring him to play more often?”

Jared smiled so broadly, he tucked his head against Jensen’s shoulder. “Sure, Mike,” 

Jensen answered, “While he’s drilling us into the ground on empath tactics, we’ll let him know that you would like to set up a play date.”

“Cool!” Mike said buoyantly, kicking back in his seat. The rest of the group rolled their eyes and laughed at his typically strange antics. 

Tom nudged Jared’s foot with his, getting Jared to look him in the eyes. “You okay?” He asked quietly.

Jared grinned slightly and nodded. Despite the wild ride he and Jensen were currently caught up on, they had good friends, good mentors, and each other. They were indeed okay.



They made it back to their quarters with a few minutes to spare before lights out. Their utilities tucked away in the wardrobe, undergoing the nightly sonic cleaning cycle, their boots buffed and on their rack, the two tired young men climbed into the soft, warm bed. Jared assumed his now customary position, his head resting on Jensen’s shoulder, tucked under his chin, his right hand wrapped around his waist, their legs intertwined. Jensen rubbed his hand up and down Jared’s arm and side. He felt the gentle kisses Jared pressed to his neck and chest. Jensen pressed kisses of his own into his mate‘s hair. 

In all that they did in the course of the day, nothing rivaled this as their favorite. Just lying together. Being together. The world pushed out the door. They could dream of a life together, beyond the demands of the Academy, when the war was over and won. They didn’t care if the odds were stacked against them. It was their dream, and they clung to it like a child clung to a favorite toy.

“So what was Misha really up to?” Jared whispered, displeased that the real world intruded on their private moments, but the issue must be talked about. 

“Not sure,” Jensen answered back, just as softly. “If I were to guess, someone here was gathering information and sending it to people the Justicar doesn’t want to have it. I don’t really know what that means for you and me, but it looks like it's serious enough they put Misha on it.”

“I like him,” Jared said. 

Jensen smiled and kissed his hair. “Me, too.”

Jared tilted his back and sought out Jensen’s full lips. They kissed gently, lovingly, for several minutes. Ever so slowly, they grew in intensity, urgency and hunger. Jensen rolled on top of Jared, claiming his mouth, his tongue. Jared locked his hands in Jensen’s short hair, holding him close. They rocked together, seeking out friction and blessed comfort from each other. 

Jared broke the kiss, gasping out, “Come on, Jen.” 

Jensen fumbled under the pillow for the container of personal lubricant, coating his fingers, feeling the gel warm and tingle. Jared spread his legs wider, beckoning Jensen to hurry. He moaned into Jensen’s mouth as the first finger breached him. Unerringly, Jensen zeroed in on his lover’s sweet spot, gently teasing the nerve bundle, driving Jared mad.  A second finger joined the first, then a third. 

“Jensen,” Jared moaned. “Need you, come on. I’m ready.”

Jensen removed his fingers and Jared ached at the emptiness. He felt the blunt head of Jensen’s cock nudging into him. He wrapped his legs around his lover, using his heels to draw Jensen in. The slow-slide stretch burned, the incomparable feeling of the other half of his soul filling him up stealing away his breath. When Jensen was fully seated inside him, they were perfectly still, holding onto the other, foreheads rested against each other. Jensen nudged his nose against Jared’s, kissing him sweetly. Jared shifted his hips, and Jensen began to move.

Their lovemaking transcended words or physical acts. They felt what the other felt, in the physical and the emotional. A chorus of, “I love yous”, “I am so grateful for yous”, “I need yous”, and “I love making love to yous” circled about their minds. They couldn’t prove it, but they knew, deep within, that in these moments they were closer, more united than any other humans. They were truly, really one. One heart. One mind. One thought. One love.

They never quite remembered the details of sex. They both enjoyed it immensely. They both came so hard they swore they saw stars. Whether hurried, rough, gentle, or slow, they could never quite recall. Tonight, they made love in rolling waves. Push and pull and ebb and flow. With every thrust, Jensen pressed against Jared’s prostate, the sensation running up his spine the same as Jared’s. 

They peaked, Jensen flooding Jared’s body with heat. He felt the sensation of him coming, of Jared’s climax, and the feeling of being full and complete that permeated his lover. He collapsed on top of Jared; Jared using his legs and arms to hold Jensen still, unwilling to break the connection. Jensen had no idea how much time elapsed, but then his flaccid cock slid out of Jared’s body, and he made a tiny whimpering sound. Jensen grinned and covered his face in kisses. Jared was giggling, trying to reciprocate.

Jensen was up on his elbows, willing Jared to be still, to look into his eyes. “I love you,” he said huskily. He knew his mate knew this, could feel it. But he needed to say it, and Jared needed to hear it. 

“I love you, too, Jen.”

They rolled to their sides, still twined together, trading drowsy kisses, until sleep finally claimed them both.



Jeffrey was just settling into his office, enjoying his coffee, when Samantha entered. She walked to his desk, her air that of the consummate professional. She set a scroll in front him, then sat in a facing chair.

“Tolemy Carthas,” she began. “He’s a member of Martel’s personal staff, and frequently wrapped up in the Senator’s more questionable endeavors. He’s been to the Academy a total of three times, all this term. He has signed in each of those times as Millis Gryon’s uncle. Which, he of course, is not.

“Millis Gryon Sr. is a self-styled politician. He has met with limited success at a planetary level, but definitely has eyes on the senate. Martel has precisely the pull and ambitions that would appeal to Gryon.”

“So Martel makes vague promises to help Gryon gain a senate seat, all for the low-low price of just talking with his son,” Jeffrey said, flipping through the dossier on the scroll. 

“Security found transmitting devices in the mess, three libraries, two of the seminar rooms, and in two commons areas. Not the commons that Gemini frequents. All of the devices have been removed in a standard security sweep. We have holo logs of Carthas in all of those places. Normal holo observance would have proven inconclusive but the new system shows him clearly planting the devices.”

“And we can’t link Carthas directly to Martel,” Jeffrey growled. “The core question is what is Martel up to?”

“Unofficially, this looks like a power play. He wants to drag Gemini into the spotlight and force your hand, send them to the front, and he gets to be the hero. I think he’s positioning himself for a run at Consul Executus.”

“There aren’t words to convey the horror of that statement,” Jeffrey continued looking over the documents Samantha compiled. When he’d finished the distasteful task, he set the scroll and his mug on the desk. A series of taps on his com, and the room locked down. 

“Jeffrey?” Samantha asked, slightly alarmed.

“Sam, we have to get to the bottom of this. I am invoking Executive Privilege.”

Samantha stared at him with wide eyes. “Jeff, that’s…”

“Huge? Dangerous? Yes. I know. I also know only one other Justicar has exercised that right, and things didn’t go well for him. But the stakes over this are too high. We aren’t dealing with political intrigue. We have a budding demagogue running amok in the halls of power, trying to play politics over a war that will determine the survival of humanity. I fully believe that Gemini will turn the tide of this war. It’s possible, given the time, the training and the support, those two young men will win the whole damned thing. If this is career suicide, that’s fine, so long as those two have every possible opportunity to succeed.

“Right now? Our priority is to bring Martel and everyone aligned with him to force Gemini and other green cadets onto the front lines down. I suspect that once he has gathered enough intel, he will try to force the issue at a senate hearing. Very public. Maximum exposure. While we compile all this data on him, I want to feed him precisely what he is looking for, and make sure none of it is true.”

“Jeff,” Samantha began, taking a deep breath before she continued, “This is a very high stakes game. I get how important Gemini is, I do, but are you certain this will ultimately help them?”

“I know that inaction will hurt them worse than anything I could do.”

Samantha rubbed a hand down her face. She stood to exit, speaking over her shoulder. “Then I guess we better get started. I’m bringing Ora in on this. I assume Jim and Justin will be handling Celestus?”

“Yes. Alison has already made inroads into Martel’s camp. I suspected it would come this. She will be point on the inside.”

Samantha nodded, straightening her spine and walking out of the office. 

Jeffrey picked up his mug, taking a deep drink, praying to the Source that he was making the right choices for them all.



“Lyrea is more than capable of being self-sufficient,” Jensen countered. “It has more than enough resources to sustain an even more robust economy than it has, but none of those industries have been allowed to take root by design. The founding principle upon which Lyrea was built was that it must always be dependent on the other planets. A reminder to all who work in governance here that they serve the Republic as a whole, not their own self interests.”

“Decurion Ackles touches on a political truth that underwrites a core tenet of our economy,” Professor Leeds added. “The interconnectivity of economics and many facets of Republican life dramatically complicate economic science. Thank you, Decurion Ackles, for that seamless segue into our next topic. Complex mathematical systems and economy.”

Normally, Jensen never really enjoyed this class, but with Jared there sharing his understanding of the subject, Jensen found it far more interesting now. Jared made the points directly about economics and Jensen shored up his arguments with points from political science and history. Together, they were a formidable team, and the whole process caused Jensen to enjoy his classes more than he had since his early years at the Academy.

Jared also had a solid grasp on complex mathematics, which Jensen counted as a significant win. Jensen also noticed that Jared grew more eloquent and sure of himself when he spoke in public. Jensen liked to credit himself for the change; it looked good on Jared. 

Tom, Erica and Alona walked with them to mess, as they all had econ together. They talked about finals, studying, and Mike’s latest prank. Jared noticed they never brought up anything that might be construed as unusual about the famous friends. He was intensely thankful to and for these people.

Lunch proceeded without incident. Jared and Jensen packed away their expanded rations with the typical jabs and ribbing about keeping their figures. The conversation remained light and fun, the heaviest topic being plans for the break. Jensen’s and Jared’s reticence to discuss the topic clued Tom in to the difficulties they faced in planning their break. He quickly changed the subject to something less awkward. Everyone made plans to meet up at the commons that evening for more studying. Jared suspected less studying and more catching up, but he was fine with that arrangement. 

They walked together out of the mess, the group dwindling down as individuals and pairs split off to their afternoon classes and drills. Finally, Jared and Jensen walked alone, headed toward the medlab. Neither young man thought the exam would turn up anything, but their last memories of the place were not the best.

The medlab was clean to the point of sterility, which came as no surprise. The staff was kind and welcoming as always. The only difference between their checkups in the past was they were moved to exam tables that were pushed up against each other. Jared smiled, guessing the staffs' memories of their last visit were about as positive as their own. 

The tech began the exam, the readings from the computer displaying above their heads. Jared tilted his head back to try and read it, an action Jensen found ridiculously cute. Jared blushed and Jensen reached over and grabbed his hand and squeezed. Jared smiled and closed his eyes. He decided to try and go to the anchor, but not deep enough to separate himself completely from the world around him. When he got to the vast grassland and cerulean sky, he found Jensen waiting for him, grinning broadly and playing with a wriggly puppy. The site filled Jared with joy. He joined Jensen, trying not to lose himself completely in this idyllic place. 

He heard a ping, a sound utterly out of place in the anchor, and realized the exam had concluded. He and Jensen surfaced at the same time. The tech was looking at the displays over their heads, seemingly unaware the he was being watched by his patients. 

“All good?” Jensen asked. 

The young tech looked down at them and smiled. “Yes,” he answered. “Nothing here looks out of sorts.”

“Could I get a copy of the results?” Jared asked. The young man smiled and nodded, tapped a few buttons and Jared’s scroll in his utilities pocket chimed. They hopped off the exam tables, stretching a little, before they were given the all-clear to exit the lab. When they entered the corridor, Jared fished out his scroll, immediately zoning in on the data.

The tech was completely correct in his assessment, but Jared saw something a bit off in the brainwave scan. He showed the read-out to Jensen, and they studied it for a few moments before they realized the variation began as soon as they entered the anchor. The waveform moved to a different level than was common in Adepts, and the surface was very active, also not quite normal. They decided to question Misha about it when they finished with the drill.

The doors leaving the classroom core opened, and a cold blast of the winter air hit them. Their utilities adjusted, the fabric altering to better insulate. They shuddered once, and then headed for the secluded building Archon had set aside for their drills. 

As they walked along the grounds, they noticed that the snow line had moved closer, creeping further down the mountains. The valley would be blanketed in thick white snow within a few days. They considered asking their mentors to choose a drill location a bit closer to the core, but they could deal with that later.

They sensed their mentors inside several meters before they entered the doors. When they finally joined them, they found the three officers standing between the two massive pieces of machinery they had seen in their first drill with Archon. Mostly cubic with a few protuberances that made them look even more menacing. They hummed softly, but neither young man could deduce what they did. Jensen suspected deflector generators, but Jared thought they were power generators. They supposed they would find out soon enough. 

“Today, we are going to see what level of control you can both exhibit over this energy conversion thing,” Archon began. He walked over to one of the massive machines, rubbing his hand over its gleaming surface. “This is a deflector shield generator. We are going to set it to just generate power for now. You will gather up the energy and then hurl it at the back wall.” He walked over to the second generator. “This unit will be set to generate a shield along that wall. We will have it set to maximum, so considering they are both matched in power, whatever hits it should not overpower the shield.”

“You want us to hurl the gathered energy at the shield?” Jared asked.

“Exactly,” Archon answered. 

“We’ve never done that before,” Jensen said with uncertainty.

“We want to see if you can gather up the energy and focus it into a beam or a bolt, then target it to the deflector,” Sasha explained.

“Do you have any questions?” Misha asked in response to the concerned looks on the cadets’ faces. “We have all afternoon, so you take whatever time you need to get the hang of this.”

The two young men nodded. They spread their stance and relaxed their shoulders, trying to relax until they could slip under the veneer of the solid. The energy around the people in the room looked familiar by now, but the two generators were almost blinding in their intensity. They could see the flow out of the one to the deflector on the far wall. The interplay of strands of energy forming the web of the deflector fascinated them for several moments. 

Finally, they turned their attention to the whirling mass of energy of the idling generator. Just like before, they thought about touching the motes of power, and they immediately drifted to Jared’s outstretch hand. Jensen mirrored him, and the stream coming off the generator was brilliant and almost pure white. The flow extended between them, the figure eight growing brighter each moment. The intensity amassed to the point that both young men knew they should be hurting both from the proximity and the glare. Instead, they didn’t feel anything beyond the tingling sensation they had grown accustomed to. 

The flow of power was steadily growing, but Jared had no idea what to do with it. He felt reassurance from Jensen, and he looked down at Jensen's hand. A few tendrils of energy turned deep blue as they touched Jensen’s corona. They spiraled, weaving into a cylinder, the pure white from the generator coiling inside it. A nudge from Jensen and a bolt released. They watched it collide with the deflector. Seeing the ripples in the shield, the bolt spreading out and dissipating, the deflector absorbed it. 

Jared maintained the pull of energy on the generator, and Jensen channeled and focused it. Soon, the bursts of energy were replaced with a stable beam. 

“Turn up the generator,” they said in perfect sync. 

Jared handled the increase flawlessly. 

“Again,” they said. Repeating the command until the generator’s output was at maximum. The beam hit the deflector in a perfectly modulated stream. The shield remained stable, absorbing the blast, but the young men could tell the shield was at capacity. Jensen shifted, and the tendrils of blue multiplied, splitting the white into multiple beams. Within seconds, ten stable rays hit the shield, reducing the strain on the deflector. 

They maintained this configuration for several minutes without incident. Finally, Jared broke the flow, the beams diminished and disappeared. The veneer of the solid slipped back into place. The cadets turned around to see their instructors. They were met with two expressions of shock and one of smug satisfaction. The whine of the two massive machines faded to silence, and Misha addressed them.

“Well done,” he said, obviously greatly pleased. 

“Why did you break the beam up?” Archon asked.

“The strain on the deflector was becoming too much,” Jared answered. “The focus of that much continuous energy was close to shorting out the shield.”

“By dividing the flow and spreading the impact on the shield into various points, we could maintain the exercise without danger,” Jensen continued.

“You could see the deflector shield and tell it was under strain?” Sasha asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Jared answered.

“Can you interact with it?”

“We should be able to, yes,” Jensen replied.

“How were you able to focus the energy into a controllable beams?” Archon asked.

“I converted some of the energy from the generator into a form of kinetic energy,” Jensen answered.

“Could you convert it into other forms?” Misha questioned.

“We’ve converted one form of energy into biokinetic and macrokinetic,” Jared answered. “I don’t see why we couldn’t convert it to others.”

“Have you converted or drawn off energy from other Adepts?” Misha asked.

“No, sir,” Jensen responded. “We haven’t tried that.”

“That is kind of--” Jared struggled for a moment. “Using other people’s energy is kind of a violation, don’t you think?”

“Not if you are given permission by the people involved,” Misha replied.

“Sir, we don’t know what that would do to someone,” Jensen said.

“Understood,” Misha responded. “However, it's worth exploring. When another Adept uses their ability, can you see that energy at work?”

“Yes, sir,” Jared answered. “It kind of flows out of the person.”

“So you could take that energy and use it without harming the source?” Archon asked.

“We don’t know, sir,” Jensen said. “We’ve never tried.”

“I will soft push you both,” Archon stated. “Not enough to knock you down or anything, but I’ll keep it up to see if you can take that energy and convert it. If it works, just call for more and I will up the output.”

“We need some place to discharge the built up power,” Jensen said. 

“I’ll reactivate the deflector,” Misha said.

The cadets nodded their understanding, and braced themselves for Archon’s push. They slid back under the solid world, and signaled they were ready. Archon’s push was relatively gentle, and they saw the flow of violet energy coming out of the kinetic. It touched their chests, rippling outwards like water splashing against the ground. With a single thought, the power altered course and flowed around their hands.

“More,” they said in unison, and instantly the force of the push increased. It never reached them, just continued the stream building up around their hands. 

“More,” they said again. They kept repeating the request until Archon was pushing at his full strength. The build up in their hands had grown exponentially, but still not to the level they pulled from the generator.

They heard Misha tell Sasha to put up a shield. “Try and extract the energy from her shield,” he ordered them. The task was more complex, different from what they had tried before. Once they became familiar with the configuration of energy that created the shield, the bubble around Sasha collapsed and the energy moved to join Archon’s. The red hue of her energy flowed into strands, mingling with the violet of Archon’s.

“I’m going to try an empathic probe on you, see if you can draw that energy as well,” Misha said.

A golden ray connected them to Misha, and they immediately pulled it into the now intensely glowing jet encircling their hands.

“We are going to try to convert and release it,” Jared said. And the mixture of colors began to brighten and change into silver and then white. Jensen’s blue tendrils rose up and out, a rotating helix filling up with the accumulated energy. When it finally discharged, the bolt was powerful, but not as strong as what they had launched at the shield before.

Misha said “enough” and the three officers stopped. The cadets dropped their hands and returned to the solid world. Misha again looked most pleased.

“How did that feel?” he asked them. 

“Strange at first,” Jared answered. “But after that, it was a lot like with the generator.” Jensen nodded his agreement with his mate’s assessment.

Archon and Sasha exchanged appraising looks, but the cadets sensed their instructors were pleased, none more so than Misha.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “this was a promising start.”

Chapter Text

The moment the first reports of the young empath who literally scared a group of silicates to death traveled from the front lines to Celestus, I remember with perfect clarity. In the chaos of the conjecture, one clear voice rose above the fracas. Justicar Elena Armington stepped forward and offered assurances and reason. On that day, a relatively obscure official led the whole governance of the Republic. She agreed that the Adepts would indeed work together to help save humanity. She asked that in exchange for what would amount to a 100% draftee rate, that we allow the Academy Psionica to train Adepts until the age of 25, to do everything within our power to prepare the young men and women upon whom our future rests how to best fight, cope and above all survive the inescapable fate we as a people required of them. By unanimous decision of the houses of the Legis, the Justices of the Juris, and the Executus, we agreed to honor these amazing individuals with these simple and humble requests. It was, to me, the most critical day of the war. Not because the Adepts offered themselves up, but because even faced with possible extinction, we held on to our humanity. We were able to do so because an Adept led us. We owe them more than we can ever repay.

-- Transcript of Media Interview with Consul Juris Allister Carmack, as entrusted to Journalist Sari Kelra in 3165 AT.


Jensen and Jared made their way back through to the core, and to evening mess. They were tired, but satisfied. The drill had gone better than anyone could have predicted. They had used their new “gathering” ability, as Jared had named it, on the generator, their three instructors, and even the lights in the room. They had converted the energy into a deflector, using kinetic force to lift one then both generators several meters off the ground. Utilizing the energy from other sources had greatly extended their stamina. Misha seemed to be taking detailed notes on every development. When they had been released for the day, they both realized how tired they were, but were still floating on a wave of adrenaline.

The air in the valley was colder than on their previous walk. They rolled their eyes at each other for forgetting to ask their mentors to select a closer location for their drills. They suspected their request would be denied. A level of secrecy had sprung up around their activities and even the two young men themselves. Whatever cause motivated this change, neither cadet could guess. As worrisome as it was, they trusted the Justicar. Whatever may come, they knew he would always have their best interests in mind.

The core and the glittering spire filled the view in front of them. The setting sun set the tall structure alight, beautiful and inspiring. Even in the chill, the sight warmed them. Jared was about to comment to Jensen about it when he felt a sudden chill, like a shadow passing over them. He felt cold in a way that had nothing to do with the weather. He realized Jensen was standing stock still beside him. The scene in front of them hadn’t changed, but it felt different to them. A mounting sense of dread filled them. 

The sky, the classroom core, and the spire felt broken, even though their eyes told them everything was as it should be. A cold breeze caused them to shiver, snapping them out of whatever it was that had them in its thrall. They pressed forward to the core, the feeling of foreboding not fully dissipating. 

They were subdued through mess. No one pressed them about it, though. They tried to hold up their end of the conversation, but it was obviously strained. They begged off to go to their quarters to shower and change, promising to catch up with everyone at the commons when they were finished.

They opted for a steam shower, eschewing their normal rushed sonic showers, and they took it together. Jensen held Jared close, the soothing heat of the steam and the closeness of each other driving away harbingers they did not wish to think about. They luxuriated in the steam, drawing the shower out far longer than what they normally would. They stood in the steam-filled bathroom, exchanging sweet, gentle, and unhurried kisses. There was nothing sexual in their touches, only seeking comfort and offering it in return.

Dressing was equally languid in its pace, both men hesitant to break contact with the other. The colossal windows of the core were dark, the lighting muted. For the first time since this entire ordeal began, they walked hand in hand, pressed close together. When they entered the commons, only their friends were in the room. The lights were dimmer than normal, a warm fire blazing in the hearth. Everyone was quieter, less boisterous than normal, and that suited Jared and Jensen fine. 

When they were finally ensconced in sumptuous leather seats, and warm greetings, Tom, unsurprisingly, was the one to asked them about their mood. They explained what happened on the way to the core, the unsettling feeling that clung to them long after.

“Jay, back when all this started,” Tom began gently, “you said you had a dream or a vision, right?”

“Yeah,” he answered. 

“Jensen, you had the same one, right?”

“Yeah,” Jensen answered. They did not like where this was headed. 

“You both saw an alien ship hovering over the Academy. Which kind of matches what you saw or felt today,” Tom said.

“There has never been a documented oracular Adept,” Jensen said firmly.

“There has never been a record of any Adepts remotely like the two of you either,” Erica offered, inconveniently.

“All we’re saying is just don’t dismiss this,” Tom added. “Somehow everything is tied together, and I know that you’re thinking of all the ways this is impossible. You are thinking about how ships can’t reach Lyrea while the line is intact. How they don’t know where the Academy is. I get all of that, I do. But things like this, like your visions, don’t happen without a reason.”

“Just tell Misha, is all we were saying,” Erica offered gently.

Jared and Jensen looked at each other for a moment, and then nodded, silent agreement to tell their mentor.

“So, can we study now?” Jared asked.

“Sure,” Tom said with a reassuring smile. “Psi History or Yserian Lit?”

After a loud groan from everyone in the room, Tom picked up a heavy tome. “Ys Lit, it is.”



While Jared, Jensen and their friends prepared for their final exams, the five senior officers at the Academy were seated around the Justicar’s conference table. A hologram of an intricate, undulating waveform floated above the table.

“At this point,” Misha gestured to a dip in the wave, “Jensen splintered the beam into 10 beams hitting the shield at 10 distinct points reducing deflector load.”

“You were watching the deflector readouts?” Samantha asked.

“No, the boys sensed the impending overload and modified the attack pattern,” Sasha responded.

“So they were monitoring the readout?” Sam asked.

“No, they can see the deflector, its strengths, weaknesses, and failure points,” Sasha answered. “Also, they were able to disassemble my deflector and co-opt the energy.”

“You were saying that they can fully read a deflector array AND absorb the energy from it?” Samantha asked.

“It worked on a psionic deflector,” Misha answered. “We didn’t try it on the back array. Whatever energy they co-opt has to be discharged at some point. If that shield was down, they would blow the back wall off the building.”

“Let me see if I understand this,” Jeffrey said as he spun the hologram, examining the chart from a multitude of angles. “These two cadets ‘co-opted,’ as you say, the power from a level 3 zero-point generator, from three of the most powerful Adepts in the service, read a deflector array with more intuitive accuracy than the computer designed to do just that, and could convert all of this ‘co-opted’ power into any form they wanted?”

“Well, when you put it like that it sounds scary,” Misha said, not bothering to fight his wide grin.

“I want to know if they can dissolve a deflector array and use the energy,” Jeffrey said.

“Sir, we will have to do it out-of-doors,” Archon answered. “That level of discharge, without an absorbing shield, will be dangerous and, in the open, highly noticeable.”

“There might be another way,” Misha replied. “If we set the first generator to create a low radius field, they absorb that shield, and the second generator can be set to its normal deflector, they can blast it when the other fails.”

“Its possible,” Archon said. “It will be tricky as hell, though. Those generators don’t typically agree with each other. I’ll work on it in the morning and get it set up.”

“Excellent,” Jeffrey commented. “This is the best news I’ve had in a while.”

“Jeff, there was something else,” Misha said. “For the entirety of the drill today, they never tapped any of their internal ‘energy.’ All the exercises they completed with co-opted power. They were both tired by the end, but by no means drained.”

“They told you this?” Samantha asked.

“Yes, and one other thing. Everything that they did, they modulated and adjusted to preserve the integrity of the shield. In other words, we were nowhere near the peak of this ability. The challenge is, I don’t think we can test the high end. We don’t have deflectors powerful enough.”

Silence reined for several long moments. 

“You are saying these two possess an ability that could potentially end this war?” Samantha added.

“The thought had crossed my mind. The problem is there is no possible way to test that hypothesis with any degree of certainty.”

“You are absolutely correct, Misha,” Jeffrey said. “So, we do everything we possibly can to train them to the best of their abilities at a controllable output level. The time for them to test their talents on a larger scale will come far too soon, trust me.”

The somber change in tone moved the briefing directly into more serious territory.

“Misha, Jager, and Sasha have been combing through communiques between Cadet Gryon and individuals in Martel’s camp,” Samantha said.

“The bulk of it, and I am talking high 90 percent, was worthless,” Jager started. “Its conjecture about Gemini. Most of it absurd. A lot of Gryon posturing, tearing down Gemini to look better. He reported the incidents that happened in the training room and mess, but he, of course, omits his role in all of them. He builds them up as unprovoked assaults, because Gemini are jealous of him. It's rather sickening stuff.”

Jeffrey rubbed his temples. “On top of all this other bullshit, I’m going to have to expel the first cadet in history.”

“The more troubling part was the few facts that made it through: about the incident in the corridor and the incident with the deflector Adept, which were accurate, up until Gryon started painting them as intentional attacks. He’s drawing a picture of Gemini as part uncontrollable doomsday weapon and part terrorist.”

“Well, hell,” Samantha said bluntly. The people around the table were momentarily taken back by her unprecedented expression. 

“What we were able to retrieve from Academy security revealed very little about Martel’s intent,” Sasha said. “It was mostly hot air about patriotic duty and 'your family will be so proud'. It appears Carthas was here primarily to plant transmitters and mollify the informant.”

“Our agents in Celestus have retrieved huge amounts of data from Martel’s and his associates' computers,” Jeffrey added. “From the cursory review, everything we suspected was accurate. He is clandestinely working to force the Psionic Ministry to deploy cadets by the age of 16.”

“He can’t be serious?” Misha yelled over the protestations of his colleagues. 

“He’s deadly serious,” Jeffrey said. “But we’ve uncovered something more troubling.” He paused until he had everyone’s full attention. “A series of communiques that were encrypted, using a kind of code we’ve never seen before, which appears to be specifically designed to subvert executive privilege.”

“Martel isn't neither clever nor thoughtful enough to engineer something like that,” Samantha said gravely.

“No, he isn’t,” Jeffrey replied. “By the number and frequency, they appear to be from a single source, no replies. And the cypher was engineered to attack the computer of anyone who attempts to crack it and send off alerts to the source that the code has been intercepted and someone was trying to break it.”

“That is extraordinarily illegal,” Sasha said, appalled.

“Yes, but this source appears unconcerned with the law,” Jeffrey answered. “We were fortunate in that our agent is the single greatest mind in information systems and cryptology. Multiple traps were hidden in Martel’s devices, designed to alert the source when executive privilege was invoked. He disabled them all. By the code, he said this was all coming from one place. He just isn’t sure where or who.”

“So Martel is being manipulated by someone of greater power, intelligence, cunning and ambition,” Misha said. “That’s just fucking great.”

“Our agent believes he can break the code inside one month.”

“Do we have that kind of time?” Jager asked.

“We don’t have much choice, but we are not without alternatives,” Jeffrey answered.

“You have enough on Martel to indict him,” Samantha said.

“Yes, but we have no clear picture about how this game is going to play out,” Misha said. “Odds are his first attempt will be more public posturing, maximum exposure with minimum impact. He has nowhere near the support, power or resources to affect the kind of change he’s pushing for without the direct cooperation of the Justicar. We know that isn’t going to happen, and he knows it isn’t going to happen. So he tries to work the hoi polloi, the senate, the consuls, and turn the tide of opinion against the Justicar and coerce him into cooperating.”

“Which isn’t going to happen,” Jeffrey added with a smirk.

“No, it isn’t,” Misha continued. “So the first move was only a volley, a stirring of the waters until he could gather enough support and enough ammunition to use against the Justicar and Psi Min in a senate hearing. Again, he has no real hope of rewriting the republican articles, but he hopes to manipulate popular opinion and thereby some politicians into forcing the Consul Executus into pressuring the Justicar into deploying more Adepts, and specifically Gemini to the front.”

“But to what end?” Jager asked.

“He plays the hero,” Samantha offered. “It's a no-lose situation for him. Either this works, showing that increasing the number of Adepts will win the war; he can claim all the glory as it was all his idea. Or it fails miserably and the human race is wiped out. He never has to take the blame.”

“So say he gets to be the hero,” Misha continued, “he runs for Consul Executus, wins, and then the endgame, which was utterly unclear until this meeting.”

Jeffrey raised an eyebrow.

“The puppeteer in the shadows,” Misha said. “Whomever is pulling Martel’s strings. He, or she, they put Martel in the Executorship and, inside of a generation, Adepts are reduced to property or worse.”

“Don’t you think that’s far fetched?” Sasha gasped.

“No, I don’t. Someone, or -ones, with power and resources is manipulating at least one member of the senate, and I imagine that if you dig a little deeper you will find a web. This entity is employing encryption designed to circumvent executive privilege. Only two individuals in the Republic can invoke it, and only one office that ever has done it. Our shadows are deliberately trying to hide from Psi Min and booby-trapping their puppets to alert them the moment Psi Min catches wise.”

Misha’s argument was met with stunned silence. 

“I don’t mean to be a conspiracy theorist, but turning most of the Adept corp into cannon fodder is very anti-psionic. Setting up a puppet to assume great power if this gambit succeeds? Yeah, this agenda ends with either all of us dead or enslaved and stripped of our rights. It's the only conclusion commensurate with the amount of effort and resources expended.”

“Misha’s theory is not without merit,” Jeffrey added. “And sadly, not without parallel in our history. In the here and now, Martel is our primary concern, and not just ours. ConEx is aware and monitoring the situation. He approved my Ex Privilege invocation. I am deliberately keeping him out of the loop on what we find for mutual protection, but he is ready to intervene. Needless to say, we are all watching this closely, and no action will be taken without considerable deliberation.”

“As if the war wasn’t enough to fucking worry about,” Jager muttered. 

“Agreed,” Samantha concurred. “But lets get our perspective back. We’ve got two young men here, who, whether they know it or not, are our best hope for survival. Whatever bullshit Martel and his cohorts have planned will come when it comes, but right now, Gemini deserves every possible advantage we can give them.”

“She’s right,” Sasha answered. “We will do what we can on the political front, but if we let it pull our focus from Gemini, they win.”

Jeffrey nodded. “Which is why when ConEx summons me to a private chat with our favorite senator, I will be taking Samantha with me.”

“Wait, I’m confused now,” Misha said.

“They will expect me to bring you, Misha, but I need you here, working with and for Gemini. I trust the three of you to keep the place intact in our absence.”

“When is this going to happen?” Samantha asked.

“I expect this to go down within the next two weeks,” Jeffrey answered. 

“I’ll make arrangements,” Samantha said as she made notes on her scroll.

“Thanks, Sam. Now, we keep an eye on our persons of interest, and devote everything else we’ve got to Gemini and the other Adepts. Understood? Dismissed.”



Several days had passed, classes proceeding as they had for years. The drills for Jared and Jensen had increased in intensity, but they both felt invigorated by them and the first tangible successes they had since this whole thing started out. They had avoided talking with Misha about the “visions” as Tom had labeled them. He had brought it up a few times to see if they had done as they’d promised. Both young men hoped to just avoid the whole unpleasant business and wished it to go the hell away. Some irrational part of their minds decided if they could make it to the weekend, they could chalk it all up to stress and fatigue and forget the whole thing.

Unfortunately, on Friday, as they took their standard route to the training room, the “thing” reared its ugly head. Just as before, the same emotions, the same impressions, and the same wrongness overtook them. Again, visually, nothing changed. The sky, the core, and the spire all remained perfectly intact, glistening under a layer of newly fallen snow. The glimmering pristine vista only heightened the contrast with the dark dread they felt creeping up their spines. The only difference was this episode lasted slightly longer. 

When they broke free from the spell, they resumed their trek to the training room. The moment they entered the doors, Misha rushed to them, obvious concern dripping off of him. They realized the time to talk was now. They told him everything: the shared vision at the beginning of all of this, as well as the recurring episodes. 

Misha stood perfectly still for several seconds before speaking. “You have seen a silicate warship hovering over the Academy, its weapons blasting, on three different occasions?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” they answered quietly.

“It's the exact same every time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you have any indication if this is a possible future, or a definite future?”

“All we can tell you is that every time it's happened, it feels completely real. But these last two times, we haven’t seen it. We’ve just felt it,” Jared explained. “It's so difficult to explain.”

“We weren’t going to say anything,” Jensen said. “It's so strange, out there. We just hoped it would go away.”

“No,” Misha interrupted. “I’m glad you told me. Whenever these things happen, I want you to tell me immediately.”

“You think it might be something?” Jared asked cautiously.

“Honestly, I can’t say for certain. However, very recently, I’ve learned not to dismiss what I don’t understand, or what sounds impossible.”

The two young men nodded their complete understanding. 

“How about we handle it like this,” Misha said soothingly. “We make the best of all of your drills. We can’t exactly prepare you for facing down an alien warship.”

“Okay,” the two young men said in unison.

“We want to see how you interact with deflectors,” Misha explained. “We’ve seen you dismantle them. Now we want to see if you can reinforce them.”

“Yes, sir.”

Misha moved to the other two instructors, the room quiet except for the hum of the two generators. The slide under the solid was much easier, fluid for them both now, and the energy web on the far wall glowed a soft silver-blue color. The machine on their left idled, nothing emitted from it. 

“Sir,” Jensen said. “Can the idling generator be activated to augment the shield on the back wall?”

“No,” Archon answered. “Deflector generators don’t work with existing shields. They only create new ones. The frequencies and the energy matrices are incompatible.”

“What would happen if that generator is turned on while set to put up a shield in the same spot as the one that’s already there?” Jared asked.

“They ultimately short out,” Archon explained. “It’s not particularly spectacular; they just spark and sputter and then the breakers inside the generators trip and they both shut off.”

“How long before that reactions happens?” Jensen asked.

“About 30 to 45 seconds,” Archon answered.

“Can we try something, even if it might trip the breakers?” Jared asked.

Archon shrugged and moved over to the control panel of the idling machine. “Just tell me when you are ready.”

They studied the existing shield for a few moments longer and gave the go ahead. The result was chaos. The two webs competed and vied for the same spaces and failed completely. The discord was almost painful to watch. Immediately, they sprang into action to try and reorder the strands of energy into a harmonious whole. The first moves failed. The second as well, and they saw the incoming shutdown clearly.

Time slowed to a crawl, and they worked feverishly, trying to craft balance out of dissonance. One shield wasn’t the problem. It was both. Jared worked on the one in place and Jensen, the other. The link allowed them to work in perfect tandem, and the two shields began to merge. Where they clashed, the two young men adjusted them. Finally, the two became one, and the blinding clash became a perfect tapestry, and Jared and Jensen stared in awe at how beautiful it was and at how much more powerful it became than they had anticipated.

“This is impossible,” Archon gasped. 

“What is?” Misha said. He and Sasha moved to flank the man who was staring slack-jawed at the display of his scanner.

“The shields have merged,” he said. “And they are not twice as powerful, it's an exponential increase.”

“Record everything,” Misha ordered, pulling out his own scanner. “You, too, Sasha. I want every aspect of this recorded.”

Several minutes later, Misha turned to the cadets. “Guys, are you okay?”

“Yes, sir,” they answered.

“Maintaining this isn’t straining for you?”

“No, sir.”

“We’re going to shut down the generators, all right?” At their nods, Sasha and Archon shut the machines off. 

Misha walked over to Jared and Jensen, standing between them and turned to face the back wall. He put his arms around their shoulders. “Cadets,” he said with a smile. “Congratulations. You’ve just rewritten the book on deflector shield dynamics, and saved countless lives.”

Even Archon was smiling, an expression the two young men were certain they’d never seen. “And probably just created a lot of sleepless nights for labs full of engineers and physicists.”

The smile looked good there, they both decided.



In every facet, Celestus was a capital city. The original architects imbued the city plan with that foundational principle in every way. The core buildings of government lie precisely in the heart of the city, and even as the city boundaries expanded, that fundamental structure never changed. 

In the center of the city laid the “halls of power.” A perfect circle, divided in three equal parts, housing the most crucial buildings of all three branches. Just like the ancient democracies, the Consul Executus, the Consul Legit, and the Consul Juris sat in permanent residence, occupying one arc each of the capital core. That inner circle had no other division but the three walkways that separated the three consuls. Concentric circles radiated out from the origin, each still trisected. Every building residing in those arcs dealt specifically with the consul that governed the arc. The only buildings that bridged the segments belonged to the military. Those buildings crossed from the Consul Executus to the Consul Juris on one side, and the ConEx to the Consul Legis on the other, but in every case, the building originated with the Consul Executus.

The origin circle had no allowances for transports of any kind. To travel between the branches and the buildings of their highest officials, everyone had to walk. Regardless of rank, position, wealth or power, every man woman and child in the Republic traveled under their own foot power with every other person. No exceptions had ever been allowed. It was unlikely any ever would be.

The Hub, as it had been labeled, housed some of the most beautiful architecture in the Republic, and every building had an unobstructed view of the other two. The gardens of each reflected its division of governance and harmonized with the others. The single feature all three held in common was a long, narrow, and uninterrupted reflecting pool that stretched from the entrance of each building to the center of the hub. The three pools stopped short in front of a single monument that marked the very center of Celestus. An obelisk, ancient in design, stood proud and alabaster white. Some say it was the monument from an ancient civilization, named after a hero of that people. Some say it was a device created by the architects of the city. Regardless, the Monument, as it was known, was the common point where all the government of the people of the Republic intersected.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Justicar Psionica, head of the Psionic Ministry, and at present, the man on whose shoulders the success or failure of humanity’s defense against annihilation rested, stood on the twelfth story balcony outside the Consul Executus’ office. He was watching the beauty of the snow-laden gardens of the heart of all power in the Republic. He saw the figures of Senator Lucion Martel and three of his assistants far below, entering the palace.

The senator had balls, Morgan admitted. The man was late to a meeting with the most powerful man in the Republic, and he was told to bring one aide, not three. Morgan was anxious to see how the Consul responded. One of the faces far below looked up at him, then entered the building. Morgan remained stone-faced, but inwardly was pleased to recognize the person.

He turned and entered the opulent office. The Consul was speaking with his chief of staff, the older man’s face completely placid, a schooled expression he only wore when he was less than pleased. Morgan was acknowledged by both men, but he stood at parade rest until his superior released him. He knew the Consul appreciated the show of respect, especially with the insulting behavior of the Senator. The door to the outer office opened, and Martel and his entourage were shown in. The senator walked assuredly over to the Consul, attempted to interrupt and was waved away by the chief of staff. Martel was flustered by the brush off, but stood silently by. Several long moments passed, and the conference finished. 

As the chief turned to leave, the Consul addressed him, “Please show the Senator’s aides out.” His tone brooked no argument, but Martel protested. He sputtered a few words and fell quiet as the Consul ignored him and circled around his desk.

Morgan knew the older man intended to have this meeting in the sitting area, and the change of venue was telling. When he took his seat, Morgan was still at parade rest, Optia Ferris in matching posture beside him. 

“Senator, did you read the summons from this office?” the Consul asked coolly.

“Of course, sir,” Martel answered.

“Then you were aware that you and one of your assistants were summoned?”

“Yes, but--”

“That additional person was an extension of courtesy. You brought three. The extension was retracted when you abused that courtesy,” the Consul interrupted. “What do you have to say regarding the tardiness of your arrival?’

“Sir, I was detained--”

“Senator, perhaps you are unfamiliar with protocol,” the Consul interrupted again. “A summons from the office of the Executus to a member of the Legis is uncommon, and takes precedence over all other business, unless it conflicts with an official subpoena from the Consul Juris. Your tardiness will be noted and treated as the insult that it was.”

The color drained from the senator’s face. He sat at the Consul’s gesture in an empty chair. Morgan sat next to him when the Consul gestured to him as well.

“I will proceed with this meeting on the understanding that Senator Martel was either ignorant of protocol and decorum or has determined to ignore it. Justicar Morgan and Optia Ferris were here at my summons, as well. As they chose to attend both in the proper number and the proper hour they were both allowed to attend. This session was called to discuss the two sides of the argument about the appropriate age at which Adepts should serve in the psionic divisions of the military.

“I had allotted time to hear both sides of this issue. Senator, your allotted time will now be charged against your late arrival. That leaves you still owing me several minutes. Justicar Morgan generously offered to present his side of the discussion in order that the time not be a complete waste. In truth, he need not have bothered.

“I will say this once, Senator, and I will not repeat it. The Adepts of our fair Republic are currently the only people with a 100% draft rate. Because they represent our last best hope, they all, and I mean all, enter military service when they reach 25 years of age. That age will not be lowered one minute. That decision was reached unanimously by all three branches of this government 17 years ago, and you sir, are not the man to change it. 

“Under that directive, and under the directive against treasonous dissension, I hereby issue the following order: Senator Lucion Martel, if you or any other individual associated with your office speak, publish, broadcast or in any other form communicate ideas counter to the Psionic Wartime Draftee Act, you and they will be arrested and tried for treason to the Republic and her peoples.

“Is this clear?”

The senator’s eyes were wide and his skin pale. Beads of sweat rolled down his face. “Yes, sir.”

“Now, senator, allow me to explain how this might have gone differently. You violated chain of command when you went directly to the Academy Psionica without clearance of the Consul Legis or this office. Secondly, you abused your position when you entered the office of a superior without his knowledge and consent, and had in fact committed an act that can be tried as treason by doing so. A lesser man than Justicar Morgan would have had you arrested on the spot. In fact, he did not even report your transgression, and I had to find out about it through a standard Academy security report.

“This session could have seen a slightly different outcome had you not insulted this office with your flagrant disregard of the terms of your summon. Had you arrived at the appropriate time, you could have made your argument, and I would have heard it. This could have all transpired without invocation of the dissension directive.

“Instead, what you did was just plain old posturing. You overestimated your position and importance and insulted me, my guests and office of Consul Executus. As such, I have no recourse than to view your stance on this argument as an attempt at demagoguery. And by extension, I view you as a demagogue. You now have the full gaze of this office on all that you do. I am watching you, and you should take no comfort in that fact. You, Senator, are dismissed.”

As if on cue, the outer door opened. The senator stood shakily, bowed stiffly to the Consul, turned and walked silently out. The cold, golden eyes of the Consul watched him leave. When the door closed, he took a deep breath.

“Jeffrey, I don’t know if I stopped the storm or stirred it up, but I assure he will be more careful from here out.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I hope this Gemini is worth it.”

Morgan startled at the mention of the codename. He quietly responded, “Yes, sir. I assure you, they are.” 

Chapter Text

We have lived for some years with the unpleasant fact that we are locked in a war of attrition. The enemy seems willing to sacrifice millions of their kind to kill thousands of ours. And yet, their assault never lessens, only escalates. Psionics are our best defense, but we lose more with each battle. These are men and women, our sons and daughters, gone forever in the face of incomprehensible hatred, and we cannot replace them. Not metaphysically or physically. The alien teaming millions chip away at us, and at this rate, we will lose.

 -- Interview with Justicar Conservator Julian Torrez as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3120 AT.


Jared and Jensen moved as two halves of one whole. Sasha never relenting in her assault, an unending barrage of blasts from the two enemy weapons she held. Jared maintained the shield around himself and Jensen, the attacks hitting the surface, their energy absorbed and stored in the shield itself. Jensen drew just enough power from the shield to launch returning salvos at a holographic target that moved ceaselessly in front of the deflector on the back wall. 

Th setup took the cadets about an hour, trying to get used to absorbing the blaster bolts with a shield then funneling them into returning salvos. The most challenging aspect had been finding a way to still see the holotargets in, as Misha put it, “energy world.” Once they discovered how to pull it off, they had settled into a steady rhythm, and even mastered how to vary their counterattacks to put more power behind a bolt meant to take out a larger holotarget while not overwhelming the back shield.

Archon’s com let out a strange sound, and Sasha called a break as her weapons were overheating. Pleased with their progress, Sasha and Misha doled out praise and back slaps. 

Archon’s whispered, “oh, fuck,” shocked them all. Horror radiated off Archon, and the other senior officers rushed to his side. Whatever was streaming onto his com screen horrified all three of them, and Jensen and Jared grew concerned. 

Misha ran a hand down his face, a weary gesture muffling his speech, but the two young men could make out “fuck.” They inched closer to their mentors, partly to divine what was going on and partly to offer what comfort they could. Archon walked over to the large com panel in the wall, and everyone saw clearly what was happening.

The numbers were beyond comprehension. Twenty-two percent of the Adepts stationed at the front wounded, most severely. Few casualties, but that was expected to change. Over five-thousand enemy fighters on a suicide run, flying at high speed directly at the base. The fleet and base defenses were destroyed the most, but over a thousand made it through, slamming into the deflectors, all of their systems set to overload. The shields absorbed most of the blast before collapsing, but the shockwaves from the collisions and explosions caused huge sections, particularly the heavily populated areas such as the barracks and mess halls, to collapse. The entire maneuver had been executed with disturbing precision and a flagrant disregard for all life, including the enemy’s own.

“The medics and med-techs are overwhelmed,” Archon read aloud. “The Adepts are struggling just to keep people alive, no energy to spare to actually heal. The medical facilities are completely overwhelmed. The kinetics have pulled everyone from the wreckage, but they have no place to take the wounded. They are just laying them on the ground, waiting for the badly injured to die, and begin moving the bodies out of the compound.”

Sasha’s hand was covering her mouth, eyes welling up with tears. They all had friends there, many probably dying or dead. 

“How long before the fleet begins evac of the wounded?” Misha asked. 

“Hours,” Archon answered grimly. “Misha…” the man’s voice trailed off as he cut his eyes to look at the cadets who were watching them closely. 

Misha followed his gaze, his eyes freezing on the two young men. “Jay, Jen,” his voice was uncharacteristically rough. “What I am about to ask you is just that. It’s a request. I will not order you to do this.” The two young men nodded their understanding. “Will you two go with us to the front and see if you can help?”

Both young men gasped. This was a request filled with portent. It could end their careers, but they could save lives. “Yes, sir!” they answered forcefully.

“Listen closely,” Misha continued, “I am asking, specifically, for you to funnel as much power from the base’s reactors and turn that into medikinetic energy. I am asking you to take more energy than you have ever used before and turn it into a form of power you have never attempted before. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir!” 

“No matter how this turns out, the shit is going to hit the fan,” Archon added. “When it does, I’ll take the fall. I’ll tell everyone I ordered you to go,” he said to Jared and Jensen.

“Jager,” Misha interrupted. “I have to take the fall on this. For a lot of reasons, but when it goes down, I’ll take the fall.”

Jared and Jensen remained silent, unwilling to waste precious minutes on arguing this point with their mentors. When the upper brass crashed down on them, they would stand with their mentors, but they didn’t need to know that now.

Misha squared his shoulders, drawing up to his full height. “Let’s go,” he said gravely, and the five Adepts exited the training room, following Misha’s lead.



“Why the hell are we headed to your quarters?” Archon grumbled.

“Because we aren’t going to be stupid about this, that’s why.” Misha’s voice hard as granite. 

They all filed into his quarters, and Misha walked to a blank wall between his bunk and his desk. He tapped several times on his wrist com, touched the center of the wall, and the blank surface rippled away from his hand, disappearing completely and revealing an armory. 

“What the fuck?” Archon gasped.

Misha pulled a large metal cube out of one of the bays. It was about a half meter cubed. He touched something on one side and it split apart into six layers, a stack of six boxes, a half meter square, and about ten centimeters tall. He turned to the cadets and ordered them to put up the hoods on their utilities and empty their pockets on the bed. After they complied, he tossed a box to each of them. 

It felt somehow lighter but more solid than they had expected. Misha walked to Jensen, guiding his box to the middle of his chest and pressing it flat there. Immediately, his utilities contracted, becoming skin tight, clinging to his body, his hood pressed tight against his skull. Straps extended from the box, wrapping around his chest, over his shoulders connecting into a harness.

“Place your hand here.” Misha guided Jensen’s hand to where his was. The box made a whirring sound and then chimed. Jensen dropped his hand to his side, and the box unfolded. What looked like thousands of thin pieces of metal folded out of the box and spread all over his body. In seconds, his body was encased in dark, matte-finished metal. As his eyes bugged out and his breath caught, he realized he was now in full body armor.

“What the fuck?” Archon nearly shouted.

“You keep saying that, Jager,” Misha smirked. “It's prototype portable armor. It will extend into a full helmet. The metal is a new type of plastinium that is completely non-conducive, and is significantly stronger than any other substance we have. It took Republican scientists almost two decades to fabricate it after studying silicate carapaces.” As he explained this development, a large swath of fabric shot out from the line of Jensen’s broad shoulders, draping down his back and almost touching the floor.

“Capes? Really?” Sasha said incredulously, at the same time Jared breathed out a hushed, “cool!”

“It's smart fabric, very strong and versatile. It can fully retract, or form various shapes. It can also adhere itself to the entire suit as a secondary layer of defense. Jared, it's your turn.”

Within seconds, he stood next to Jensen identically clad. Neither man voiced it, but they thought they look pretty damned impressive. Jager and Misha followed suit. When the transformation was complete, the empath turned to Sasha.

“I need you to stay here, keep an eye on things, and possibly relay information to us. No matter how insane this plan may be, I will not leave the Academy unattended.”

Sasha reluctantly nodded. They followed Misha to the sitting area of his room, and he tapped the surface of the table. Holograms sprang to life, and Misha began entering codes into them.

Archons gasped, “Misha, you have a black card?” Jared and Jensen shared a look, conveying their confusion.

“Yes,” Misha answered, never ceasing his motions as he sorted through the information on the screen. “This is why I have to take the fall for this.”

“Black card?” Jensen asked softly.

“Secret ops,” Archon explained. “It explains where he got all these gadgets, and it allows him to circumvent security measures and issue orders to officers who would normally out rank him. Also, it means we are going to get in and out with no one knowing who we are.”

“Almost no one,” Misha said. “ConEx will know. He issued me the card. Like I said, it will all fall on me. Jared, Jensen, I need you to come here and place your hands in this box.” The young men followed orders, the gloving around their hands retracting as they put their hands into a floating, glowing box in the middle of the hollow field.

The computer prompted them to say their names, and they complied. A stream of information they didn’t understand floated above the table. The box disappeared, and as they lowered their hands, their suits covered them once again. After Archon did the same thing, Misha explained.

“This is now officially a code black operation. For the duration of this mission, you all share my clearance. However, because Jen and Jay are not trained, I will disable their external coms. When your helmets are in place, whatever you say will only be heard by the rest of us wearing these suits. Jager, no names, no ranks, nothing that would give any hint to our identities. Refer to me as One, if you have to address me on open coms. Understood?”

The three men nodded.

“Jager, how well do you know this facility,” Misha asked as he gestured to a newly formed hologram of the schematics of the base.

“I know it well. Every tour I had was stationed from there. We need to get them into this room.” Archon pivoted the schematic, zooming into the building and revealing a massive room at its heart. “The reactor room. They will need to pull energy straight out of the reactors. I assume these suits are radiation shielded?”

“Yes. They will be safe.”

“Good. By the report we read, the wounded are concentrated all around the med wing, but many were scattered throughout the intact parts of the base.” The three other men watched with keen attention.

After he had committed the layout to memory, Misha said, “We are teleport-hopping to get there. I’m setting up the program now.” His fingers were almost a blur as he configured the route they would take. When he finished, he stood back and took a deep breath. “Jen, Jay... I can’t thank you enough for doing this. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it would make a huge difference. But I need a promise from both of you. No matter what, you will not take any action that will harm either of you. I will stun you both in a heartbeat if I think you are doing anything that might endanger you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“We head in, you two do your thing, and we head out. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, that changes nothing. We get out.”

“Yes, sir.”

Misha tapped against the plating on his wrist and more thin plates unfolded, encasing all of their heads, and completely hiding their identities. 

“Sasha,” Misha’s voice, now modulated to a point that it was unrecognizable, “keep us posted. Watch this console. Everything you and, by extension, we need to know will show up here. Above all, hold down the fort.”

Sasha saluted him, and said softly, “Good luck and safe journey.”

With that, the four men exited the room.



The corridor in front of Misha’s quarters was blessedly vacant, and the teleporter room was only a few doors down. Jensen and Jared suspected this was more by design than happenstance. When Misha approached, the door didn’t open, instead the com panel lit up, and a few taps on his wrist com later, the panel completely blacked out and the door slid open. The attendant was at full attention, his face pressed against the wall like a scolded child. Even from this angle, they could tell his eyes were tightly shut. 

Misha walked around the console and checked something before he stepped onto the platform. The mechanism engaged, and the weightless, disembodied feeling of dematerialization followed. Moments later, a different room solidified around them, this time two attendants at attention facing the wall. No sooner had they felt whole again before the teleporter engaged again. 

The process repeated six more times, each time anyone present in the room was at attention and facing away from the platform. When they materialized on the seventh platform, they remained solid.



Lieutenant Daniel Oltry had seen better days. The moment his orders arrived, stationing him at Utopia Planitia, he knew his life, what would undoubtedly be a brief one, had become extraordinarily more complicated. Today, however, would be burned in his mind as a living nightmare. The sirens had sounded, not a particularly uncommon occurrence, and he had faithfully taken his post in the teleporter chamber. When the first tremors of the attack had rattled the room, he pushed it out of his mind and focused on the console. Within minutes, the entire structure shook and jerked violently. The second lieutenant stationed with him this shift had gone ashen and wide-eyed. As soon as the final shocks subsided, the reports began flying across the displays. 

The horror the data portrayed required no visuals to turn the young officer’s stomach. The two young attendants stood fast at their post, the room eerily quiet and forgotten. Until every display went blank, flashing only one word.

“Sir,” Oltry shouted into his com to the head of base security without waiting for more than a frustrated acknowledgement, “incoming unscheduled traveler.”

“What?!” the man yelled over the com.

“Sir, it says ‘code black’”

“I’m on my way,” the colonel shouted back, and the com went dead. Whatever was about to happen, Oltry had an uneasy feeling.

Time passed interminably slowly, and both attendants jumped when the door chimed and the security chief stormed in. The older man froze in his tracks when he saw the flashing displays. The traveler would arrive in seconds.

“Secure the door,” the colonel barked out. “Everything that you see from now until the traveler leaves is so far above your pay grade you can’t see the bottom of it. None of this ever happened. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” the young officers snapped back. 

At that moment, the platform lit up, four patterns coming through. The travelers had arrived. 

Two years stationed at the front did nothing to prepare Oltry for what he saw next. Four tall figures, clad head to toe in dark metal, an inverted three-pointed star of mirror-finished metal as their visors. Long, full capes gathered at each shoulder, flowing to a centimeter above the floor. These men exuded power and purpose. The one closest the platform’s edge stepped down first. The colonel and his two guards stood at attention. The other three armored men followed after their leader. He stood in front, off the colonel, and saluted.

“Secure a path to the reactor room,” a heavily modulated voice said. “Escort us there.”

“Yes, sir,” the colonel said sharply. 

As they made to exit the chamber, the leader turned to Oltry. “Lock this room down until we return.”

“Yes, sir,” the young lieutenant saluted smartly, and as the doors closed behind the travelers, he entered his code and waited.



After the Battle of Thuban Prime, all colonization efforts collapsed. Classic strategy dictated that when facing an overwhelming foe, force the confrontation at the narrowest possible point to eliminate the advantage of greater numbers. The only trans-light conduit the aliens could take to attack the Republic came closest to an EoAerian planet that had been completely ignored before the attack. A scientific survey team had originally cataloged it as uninhabitable, but in a fit of nostalgia, named it after a giant impact crater on Terra’s neighbor, Mars: Utopia Planitia. The name carried particular significance as the base that had been built there a millennia ago as man’s first attempt at terraforming. It had been unsuccessful and had forced humanity to seek a new home among the stars.

Over two-thousand years after its christening, Utopia Planitia, like its ancient namesake, became the frontline for humanity’s battle for survival. Had the silicates come from any other sector, their fleets could have attacked the Republic from two or more conduits. The core of engineers built millions of graviton generators, flooding three square parsecs with a TL drive-crippling barrier. The gravitons scrambled sensors, shielding the location of the generators, leaving the only visible target the small planet.

The Republic built the most powerful deflector system ever devised on its surface and correspondingly massive dark-matter reactors to power them. The primary military base housed fifty-thousand personnel, five-thousand two-man fighters, and all of the instruments and support necessary for the Republic’s growing fleet. Wherever along the front the enemy tried to breach the barrier, the fleet could intercept them in moments. The assaults more often than not focused on Utopia Planitia, the strategy clearly to take out the highly fortified position, and from there, punch a large enough hole through the TL barrier to allow their ships to pass through and begin attacking the core worlds. 

With every push by the enemy, Republican vessels of all sizes, each carrying Adepts would move close enough to the enemy that the psionic emanations would take them out. It was a highly effective strategy, but a risky and costly one. It had held the line for two decades. 

But on this day, the enemy changed their strategy. The silicate fleet dropped out of TL closer than usual, the carrier ships having burnt out their TL drives for that extra push through the barrier. The tactic put them several million kilometers closer to Utopia Planitia, but left every one of their large ships stranded. The enemy fighters poured out of the motherships in a suicide assault on the planet’s fortifications. The damage inflicted had been massive. 

Inside a large corridor in the heart of the base, Jared and Jensen did their best to walk with the same confident purpose their mentors were using. They were glad, for not the first time, the helmets hid their faces. The displays inside the suits provided a wealth of information but they didn’t have time to study it all.

The base was worse than they could imagine. The few windows they passed gave glimpses of the horror of the day. Vast stretches of smoldering ruins that had at some point been barracks and other heavily populated areas. The fact that the shields held for as long as they did had bought thousands crucial time to head to more secure areas. But even their path to the reactor room was littered with debris and fallen wounded, waiting to die.

The few personnel they encountered stood at attention with shell-shocked faces, too numb from the terrors they were working through to pay much attention to the strange visitors. Both young men breathed deep sighs of relief when the blast doors of the reactor room closed behind them. 

A harried looking man bearing the insignia of Senior Aedile approached them. “Chief Engineer Corian Lertus, Senior Aedile,” he rattled off as he saluted.

“Report,” Misha’s mechanized voice ordered.

“The shield arrays are still off line. We have disconnected all of the arrays from the reactors until the burnt out relays are replaced.”

“The reactors?” Misha asked.

“The reactors are undamaged and operating at capacity. Dynamic capacity is 43 percent lower than normal, as we lost that percentage of the compound, sir, but we are able to maintain atmosphere containment.”

Misha’s helmeted head nodded. “Dismiss all personnel aside from your deflector repair units and your five most seasoned engineers. Have the others wait on the other side of the blast doors. Once they are cleared, seal the room, level 5 containment. When the room is secure, put your men at their stations, full eye protection gear.”

“Yes, sir,” the engineer said. The room cleared within a minute, the klaxons sounding containment. An angry voice sounded over the com, and two taps of Misha’s wrist com and the screen blacked out. He cut out his external com.

“Are you ready?” he asked the cadets. They both sounded off that they were. “You will have to pull energy straight from the auxiliary ports here in this room. No emitters.”

“Can I have just one moment, sir,” Jensen asked.

“Granted, but make it quick.”

Jensen turned to Jared, not caring that their superiors could hear him. “Jay, don’t use any of your internal resources. You hear me? None of it. And the second it becomes too much, you break it off, or I will.”

Jared grabbed Jensen’s forearm and held it. “I’ll be fine, Jen. Okay?”

“I love you, Jay.”

“I love you, too. Now let’s do this.”

Jensen nodded. He grabbed Jared’s forearm, and they stood, their helmets almost touching, clenching each others arms. They slipped into the waking trance, and Jensen began syphoning off power from the reactors.

“Turn up reactor 1 output by 10 percent,” he heard Misha order. 

Jensen felt the power of the reactor increase and he started to draw off power in earnest. He gathered it up in between his and Jared’s bodies. He worked to keep it contained and condensed, and Jared turned it, the bright white becoming silver, and then silvery green. When the pulse went, it looked like the orb of energy blew off its outer shell, an omni-directional wave of pale green energy radiating outward, passing through the bulkheads and disappearing from view.

 They kept it up for five more pulses, and then Jensen felt comfortable enough to draw in more power. “More,” he said. He heard Misha order the reactor turned up another ten percent. Jensen pulled it all into the glowing orb between him and Jared. The pulses became stronger and more frequent. “More,” he said, and Misha ordered more power. 

Each subsequent pulse was stronger, and suddenly, it felt like the world opened up before their minds. They could sense every person in the complex: the wounded, the medics--everyone. When the next pulse went, they could feel the energy as it poured into the nearest wounded bodies. It felt like a torrent of water pouring across the ground until it hit a crevasse and then rushed in to fill the abyss. 

“More,” Jensen said again. Misha ordered the increase. 

“Sir, reactor one is at max,” the chief shouted back.

“Bring up reactor two,” Misha ordered. 

“Reactor two online,” an engineer from behind the group yelled. 

Jensen felt the new source of power, and immediately drew from it. As soon as the new source joined in with the first, the pulses of healing energy increased in magnitude and frequency. They felt each wave as it was absorbed by the broken bodies all around them. 

“More,” Jensen said, and then again he had more energy at his disposal. Now, every volley Jared released was orders of magnitude greater than the first, and, to their great relief, they felt the wave pass over bodies that previously had absorbed the healing tide. 

“More,” Jensen said. He'd lost track of how many times he said it, but soon he felt another reactor coming online. Now pulling from all three sources, the flow of power inward was so intense he could no longer see the individual sparks. It was an unbroken flow of brilliant white, turning silver-green the moment it coiled up between their bodies. He sensed that Jared was straining, but only as much as himself, and they could maintain this for a bit longer. 

“Misha, turn reactor three all the way up,” Jensen ordered. He folded the resultant surge in with the rest. Now, immensely powerful waves of healing energy were blasting through the compound. He felt when the wave passed through the area behind them without being absorbed. Jared altered the wave, focusing into a sweeping arc, delivering the healing energy where it was needed. 

The fifth or sixth arc went off, and Jensen stabilized the flow of incoming power, and soon an uninterrupted stream of silver-green light radiated outward from them. Jensen couldn’t even begin to imagine the amount of power they were drawing off of the reactors. It was so far beyond anything he was familiar with he couldn’t even guess. 

All he could see anymore was bright white flowing around him and pale alpine green broadcasting in front and to the sides. The strain became too great, and Jensen knew they couldn’t hold out much longer. Jared let out a cry of pain, and Misha ordered the third reactor shut off.

“Don’t!” Jensen yelled. “Don’t shut it off all at once. Ramp it down, but do it quick!” He and Jared were barely hanging on. He could feel Misha’s unease. By the time the third reactor returned to standby, they were both gritting their teeth, trying to hold on. The arc of healing energy continued out of them, but it sputtered occasionally, as their strength gave out. 

Reactor two was almost shut down when their knees gave out. Jared was pushing out with all that he had, but the healing wave was still being absorbed by the wounded. Reactor one ramped down quickly, the power Jensen was able to syphon off of it a trickle compared to what it had been.

“Shut it down,” Jensen rasped. The flow stopped, but before he and Jared could hit the ground, Misha and Archon were on them, holding them up. 

The room remained silent. Jared and Jensen could faintly here the voices of Misha and Archon in their helmets. The men were calling to them, asking them to respond. The world began to right itself and their visions started to clear. 

“We’re okay,” Jared said, his voice faint and too rough. “We’re okay.”

“Yeah, sure you are,” Archon said. 

“No, we’re just tired,” Jensen groaned as he sat up. 

“Easy,” Misha said, both hands steadying Jensen as he tried to rise; Jensen just nodded. He and Jared were hanging onto the older men, feeling shaky and warn.

“We get them all?” Jared asked.

“I don’t know,” Archon said, his voice breaking over the word. “But you got enough.”

“Good,” Jensen said. Finally, they felt steady enough to stand on their own.

The chief engineer was standing a few feet off, slack-jawed. “Sirs?”

“We’re okay,” Misha said. 

“Sir, what just happened here?” the older man asked quietly.

“What all of you saw here today,” Misha said loudly and certainly, “never happened.”

“Yes, sir,” all of the present crew responded. 

“Chief, release the room.” The older officer moved to act immediately, and the flashing lights shut off, the coms returned to normal, and the blast doors unsealed and opened. A man with propraetor insignia at his neck stood waiting in the corridor. He was about to speak, but the sight of four men in full armor silenced him. The head of security was waiting for them, just behind the propraetor. 

“Colonel,” Misha addressed the man who immediately moved from behind his superior and stood at attention, “escort us back to the teleporter chamber.”

“Yes, sir.” He turned to lead them out, and then the handful of personnel in the hall stood to the sides to let them pass. Misha and Archon had to support the two cadets, almost carrying them. The return voyage was humbling. The palettes that lined the corridor, the final resting places of the wounded, held slightly confused but healthy and whole men and women. They stared up at them as they passed, their expressions hopeful. 

Jared and Jensen, despite their exhaustion, felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that they could do something like this. That they had the opportunity and the ability to help all of these people. Whatever might await them back at the Academy, this, these people who would now live, made everything worth it.

The doors to the teleporter unlocked and opened for them. The two young men turned and looked behind them to see the stunned faces of the security team and the base commanding officer watching them. The doors locked, and Misha activated their return trip program. The two older men flanked their charges, helping them up to the platform.

Misha said softly, “Let’s go home.” And they disappeared from the platform.



Sasha was waiting for them outside the door to the boys' quarters. It was evening mess, so the halls were vacant. It felt much, much later. The boys were barely upright. Their armor still fully extended, helmets and all, and when Misha triggered the biometrics, they all four stumbled into the room, followed by Sasha. 

“Jen, Jay, just place your hand on the center chest panel and focus your eyes on the words ‘retract armor’ when they show up on your visor display,” Misha said softly.

They did as they were bade, and the plates did the same intricate dance as before but in reverse. Soon, all that remained were the boxes, and then the straps retracted and the boxes detached, landing in their hands. They both hissed in pain, the boxes falling to the floor with a clatter. 

Misha grabbed their hands, his eyes welling up when he saw the severe burns. “Can you heal this?” he asked. The two adepts just shook their heads. “I’ll give you something for the pain, so you can rest. When you regain your strength, you can heal yourselves. Understood?”

Jared and Jensen nodded, and then sat heavily on their beds. 

Misha bent down to pick up the armor packs, then moved to set them in the top of their wardrobes. “They are set to your biometrics. They belong to you now,” he said, pride in his voice. 

Their utilities loosened back to their normal fit, the hoods rolling back up into the collars. They sat there looking very much like cadets, young men, tired and weary, in pain, and nothing like the war heroes they now were. Their mentors gently removed their boots and jackets. 

Misha pulled them both into a hug. “Thank you,” he whispered. 

As they collapsed into their bed, the older men pulled the covers over them. They heard the hiss of the hypospray against their necks, and the throb in their wounded hands ceased. They heard Misha tell someone to excuse them for their classes and drill tomorrow and to have their meals delivered to their quarters. They were not sure to whom he spoke, and they were asleep before they could figure it out. Their last memory was of Misha sitting in the chair he had adopted. He was still there when they woke up the next day.

Chapter Text

Hindsight teaches us many things. We learned that the mysterious events at Utopia Planitia were in fact the first appearance of Gemini. We learned that hope takes very little to be kindled from a spark into a blaze. We would watch the enigma of Gemini change into a mystery, then into men. In time, they will change from men into legends, and then into myths. Perhaps in that far distant time, hindsight will teach our descendants just who Gemini really were, and if their sacrifices were worth it.

-- Interview with Justicar Conservator Julian Torrez as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3120 AT.


Jared nuzzled against Jensen’s neck sleepily and softly smiled. Eyes still closed, he just wanted to savor the warm, amazing smelling blanket that was his mate. Nothing existed in this world or any other that was better than lying here, still half asleep, wrapped up in the arms of the person you love as much as you love yourself. The gentle rise and fall of Jensen’s chest, the tender warmth of his breath fluttering against Jared’s hair, and the soothing, solid beating of his heart showed Jared that life didn’t get better than this right here.

He pondered, in that way the mostly asleep do, what could have pulled him from deep sleep, from the dreamscape he shared with Jensen. He grumpily thought whatever it was should really go get bent. Then, he smelled it. Warm, delicious food. His stomach growled, and he felt the staccato of Jensen’s breath as he whisper-laughed. When the smell hit Jared’s nostrils again, he decided that this might indeed be worth waking up to and leaving the perfect cocoon of their bed. The gurgle from Jensen's abdomen convinced him he was not alone in this idea. 

Jared tilted his head back, looking up to see Jensen’s large, brilliant green eyes glittering with humor and fondness back at him. He kissed him gently, and then sat up together, seeking out the smells that were driving them crazy. Jared stretched and yawned, looking around to find a huge meal set out on their table, and Misha sprawled out in his chair, watching them.

“Morning, Misha,” Jensen said through a jaw-popping yawn.

“Good evening,” he said back.

“What time is it?” Jared asked.

“That,” Misha pointed to the table, “was just delivered for evening mess. You’ve been asleep for almost a full day.”

“Wow,” Jensen said. “We were really tired, I guess.”

“Yeah, you were,” Misha said, a hint of something sombre in his tone.

The two young men sat at the table and tucked in to the many dishes spread out before them. The food somehow tasted ten times better than the normal mess. They tried to eat slowly, but hunger was overriding all other concerns. They cleared through the food in record time, and found Misha watching them with concern. 

As they continued to eat, Jensen asked Misha what was wrong. 

“Your hands,” Misha said softly. The two cadets dropped their utensils and saw their wrecked palms, skin raw, blistered. The sight alone was painful, but they couldn’t feel the wounds.

“Why don’t they hurt?” Jared asked, alarmed.

“Analgesic,” Misha answered. “I administered it every time the pain disturbed your rest. I hoped that when you were rested, you could heal the damage.”

Jared nodded, taking one of Jensen’s hands in his. He tried to call forth his gift, but nothing came. With wide frightened eyes he stared at his mate. Jensen looked lovingly at him. “It’s okay, Jay,” he said.

Jensen felt out their connection, and for the first time, that bond ached. He felt Jared reaching out to him. They made contact, finally joined, overcoming the pain, and the faintest whispers of healing began, soothing the psionic bond. Slowly and surely, their hands began to mend, but the process hurt terribly. They both cried out, then bade Misha to stay back. Finally, the flesh on the palms and fingers returned to normal, if a bit red and puffy. They both had beads of sweat on their foreheads, their complexions pale. 

Misha was at their sides immediately. “You are both exhausted. It was too much too soon, and you are going to have to take time to recover from this.”

“And if we don’t?” Jensen whispered in fear.

Misha dropped his head, regaining his composure before looking his charges in the eye. “Then you will be the youngest and most decorated heroes the Republic has ever known.”

“Where are Sasha and Archon?” Jared asked quietly.

“They left about an hour ago to take care of some Academy business. Now finish your meal,” Misha answered. 

“Have you all been here all night?” Jensen asked, between bites.

“The other two have been here off and on, I’ve been here all night.”

“Why?” Jared asked.

“I needed to be sure you were both all right,” Misha scolded. “I was afraid we were going to have to carry you into the medlab.”

“That would have been fun to explain,” Jensen said and was interrupted by their two other mentors entering the room. Archon didn’t even mutter a hello before walking over and activating the large wall com.

“The events last night at Utopia Planitia are leaving everyone baffled,” a reporter said, the ruin of the base barracks in the background. “After the most aggressive and potentially lethal attack by the silicates to date, thousands were left wounded and dying at the primary base of the front.”

“The story is just breaking,” Archon said, eyes glued to the screen.

“Sources tell us that the anticipated fatality rate was well over 22,000 soldiers, as the medical facilities were completely overwhelmed, and help too far away to save most. That was where things went from tragic to bizarre. Several medical personnel stationed here confirmed that shortly after 1800 hours, people throughout the base were miraculously healed. In a matter of minutes, the wounded, an estimated 38,000 people, on the base were either healed or their most critical injuries healed to the point that medical personnel could stabilize their conditions. These same personnel reported that the strange phenomenon not only healed the wounds sustained in the attack, but for many, old wounds, even scars have simply disappeared, leaving no visible trace.

“As of the time of this report, the offices of the Consul Executus and the Justicar Psionica have made no comment other than they were investigating…”

Archon muted the com and turned to look at the two young cadets. “The final toll was 32,749 men and women that you two saved last night. 2498 people were killed in the attack, but you two saved everyone else. The estimated fatality count was 22,290 before you showed up. You are heroes.”

Jared and Jensen both blushed and ducked their heads at the praise. Everyone was silent for a while, watching the data stream even if they couldn’t hear it. Jensen broke the silence. “What about the Justicar?” he asked hesitantly.

“He is headed back from the front,” Sasha answered. “We don’t know when he will arrive here.”

The mention of their superior ratcheted up the tension in the room substantially. No one knew what awaited them when he arrived. It became too much for Jared who excused himself to take a shower. Archon turned up the volume; they saw strange and inaccurate artist rendered images of four mysterious men who appeared in the base. Jensen smirked at the comical representations.

“This is bad,” Misha said. “Everyone who saw us was supposed to be silenced under standard black op protocol.” He rubbed a hand down his face, and Jensen saw how very tired and haggard he looked. Jared emerged from the bathroom in fresh utilities, and Jensen took that as his cue to have his turn. He walked slowly, on shaky legs to the bathroom.

For some reason the sonic shower felt amazing today. Jensen was just starting to enjoy it when he felt Jared’s distress. He hurried through his ablutions and dashed out the door, when he realized the room was empty except for Jared.

“The Justicar is here,” Jared blurted out. “He called the three of them to his office.”

“How long ago?” Jensen asked as he tugged on his boots. 

“A couple of minutes.”

“We’d better hurry.”



They took much longer to get to the Justicar’s office than they hoped, even though it was in the adjacent building. When they finally reached the door, they were shaking and out of breath. The door chimed, but didn’t open. Panting as they waited, the door finally opened to reveal Optia Ferris staring sternly at them. They both saluted, but Jensen spoke first.

“Optia, we know Mish--I mean Centurion Collins is here and he’s taking the blame for all of this, but he didn’t order us and didn’t force us to go, and we volunteered and we are in as much trouble as he is.”

The Optia’s face was frozen in an inscrutable expression. The silence was unnerving, and they finally heard the Justicar’s gruff voice.

“Decurions, explain yourselves,” the Justicar barked out.

“Sir, we wish to stand with our comrade for punishment,” Jared said, immediately coming to attention.

“Enter!” he ordered.

The two young men walked with their shoulders back and their heads held high, though they were terrified inside and shaking from fatigue. They had never heard their commander use such angry tones. They walked to stand beside Misha, Sasha and Archon standing on his other side. 

“Centurion Collins was just explaining how he ordered the two of you to participate in an unauthorized black operation. Do you wish to contradict his statement?” The two young men turned pleading eyes on Misha who fairly wilted, realizing the two had refused his protection.

“Sir, we are certain that if given another opportunity, Centurion Collins will revise his statement,” Jensen said with clipped military precision.

“Centurion, are they correct?”

“Yes, sir,” Misha answered quietly. “I did not order their participation. I asked them if they would help, and promised I would protect them from any repercussions.”

“I see,” the Justicar said. “So the entire operation was your idea?”

“No, sir,” Archon answered. “I apologize for speaking out of turn, but the original idea was mine.”

“What role did you play in this, Centurion Collins?”

“Sir, I was fulfilling the commission of my black card status, sir.”

“Explain yourself.”

“Sir, when the Consul Executus gave me black card status, I swore an oath to fulfill black operations and their objectives as laid out by the Consul or by the Justicar Psionica. I also swore that in dire situations to use my judgment to exercise the privileges of the commission.”

“And in your judgment, this was such a dire situation?”

“Yes, sir. In my time of service, I have never encountered a more grave or dire set of circumstances.”

“You judged this situation of great enough gravity to enlist two non-commissioned cadets? Leading them into the site of the single worst enemy attack of this war, placing them in mortal danger, knowing they did not have sufficient training to deal with a potential combat situation?”

“Sir, with all due respect, I judged the situation to be that severe, and having worked with the two cadets in question, their combat readiness is higher than most newly commissioned psionic officers, in my opinion, sir.”

“Watch yourself, Centurion,” the Justicar growled. “Make no mistake, you led two young men, whose safety has been entrusted to the Academy Psionica, into a highly dangerous situation. You also called upon them to operate untested abilities with no prior knowledge to what using those abilities would do to either of them.

“And you, Centurion Archon, are equally culpable in this matter, and you, Evocatus. You are responsible for these young men, and you endangered them, and that will not be treated lightly nor quickly forgotten.”

The five stood stock still before their leader, buffeted by his angry words.

“Sir, may I speak?” Misha asked quietly.

“Yes, but do not try my patience.”

“Sir, I would never,” Misha’s voice broke. “I would never willingly endanger either Jensen or Jared, sir. I was prepared to protect them with my life, and I would gladly do so again. I was also prepared to pull them out of the operation at the first sign of any trouble or indication of harm that might come to them. Whatever else you may accuse me of, and rightly so, no sir, I did not lead them into a dangerous situation without forethought to their wellbeing. It was always at the front of my mind. I will fight to the death for them for as long as you will let me.” Misha’s eyes were glistening, clearly wounded by the accusation leveled at him. He lowered his head, and Jared and Jensen could see him blinking the moisture out of his eyes. They were fighting their own emotions. 

“Are you through?” the Justicar asked, his tone less angry.

Misha drew himself back to attention, craning his neck to try meeting the eye of his commander. “Yes, sir,” his voice was rough and raw.

“Do the three of you understand the severity of what you did?”

“Yes, sir,” they answered.

“Do you? Can you look me in the eye and tell me that you fully understand what you did and how horribly wrong it could have gone?”

The three officers nodded. 

“Because as wrong as you can imagine it, it could have been worse. And I would be the one having to sit down with their families and explain how two young men, full of promise, three years out from field-commission, were killed in combat. That would have been my duty, not yours. And however you try to spin it, their deaths would have been on my head. Because I entrusted their safety to officers who I expected to take that duty with the same seriousness I do.”

The muscles in Misha’s jaw were twitching, but he wasn’t making a sound. 

The Justicar rubbed his hand across his mouth, moving up to rub his eyes. “You took the choice from me,” he said in a tired voice. “You took the choice from me and left me completely in the dark. And you will never do that again.”

“Yes, sir,” the three answered in an almost whisper.

“Officially, the Consul Executus and myself agree with your decision and your plan as it was executed. The five of you acted as an effective team and thousands of lives were saved. You turned a situation that might have heralded the end of the war, and then of our species and transformed it into something truly inspirational. Executus, myself, and the whole of the Republic owe you our gratitude.

“And you two,” he turned to Jensen and Jared. “You exceeded every possible expectation I could have for you. If your careers ended today, and they won’t, but if they did, you would have accomplished more than the majority of citizens who have served. But if you ever scare me like that again, I will personally see to it that you spend the rest of your lives herding grazing animals in the middle of nowhere. Am I clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

The Justicar circled around his desk, opening a drawer and pulling out four leather bound folios. “You two,” he said to the cadets. “Sit down before you fall down.” The Justicar waited for the two obviously exhausted young men to sit and then began. “After extensive deliberation between the Executus, the Optia, and myself we have decided on this course of action. Black card status is being extended to all of you.” He slid the folios across the polished surface. “Including you two, Decurions. The two of you will operate under the designation ‘Gemini,’ and will never act without complete concealment of your true identities. The Centurions and the Evocatus will function as your handlers and support team, however, they will make mission critical decisions, and you will obey their orders. As of this moment, your commissions include the following proviso: no black ops will proceed that involve Gemini that do not have my express approval. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” the five officers replied.

“To further conceal the actual identities of Gemini, the code name will be strategically leaked, and pairs of armored operatives will periodically be spotted while the two of you are in conspicuously public spaces. Gemini black ops will be few and far between, and your training and education will take priority in all but the most calamitous situations. You will never proceed to the field until you have heard your orders from my lips, do you understand me?” 

“Yes, sir,” Jared and Jensen answered.

“Because of the extraordinary circumstances that spawned this commission, you may choose two, and only two, of your comrades with whom to share what happened last night and today. If those individuals tell anyone else about this, I will strip them of rank, standing at this institution, and they will be damned lucky if they aren’t tried for treason. The only purpose of their knowledge is to offer alibis if the two of you are called away from the Academy. When you tell these individuals, you will do so in this office in the presence of myself and the Optia. Clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This is the official position of this office.” Morgan sat in his chair and turned baleful eyes on his subordinates. “Unofficially, the five of you have broken trust with me. In particular, Sasha, Jager, Misha, you have betrayed my confidence. You deliberately did not inform me of your plan because you knew that I would have forbade it. I am deeply grateful that thousands of lives were saved. But that does not change the fact that you have a long, difficult road ahead of you to earn my trust back.”

“Yes, sir,” all five answered, looking like shamefaced children.

“Misha, I know that you love these boys like they were siblings. However, you know the kind of danger you led them into. I will not seek disciplinary action, as I have no doubt you will punish yourself sufficiently. Considering the magnitude of the shadows under your eyes, your penance began last night.”

Misha merely nodded, laid bare by this superior. Two black folios laid untouched in front of Jared and Jensen. They stared at them, but made not move to pick them up.

“Is there a problem, Decurions?” Morgan asked.

“Sir,” Jensen began softly, “Misha assures us it is just fatigue, but our abilities,” he paused, swallowing several times before being able to continue, “we don’t seem to be able to do much at the moment. We barely could heal our hands.”

The look Morgan shot the mentors made their legs shake. When he spoke, his voice was gentle, though he cut murderous glances at the three mentors. “Why did you have to heal your hands, son?”

“They were severely burned, sir,” Jared said softly. “We guess from the amount of energy we were handling.”

“And now you have very little psionic strength left?” their superior asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Anyone with eyes can see that you are both exhausted,” Morgan replied. “It is very common for Adepts to experience diminished capacity after overexertion. And no one has ever overexerted to the extent you two did yesterday. Now, your friends are in northeast commons room. You will join them, and when they are finished, you will bring the two people you have chosen to share this burden with here.”

“Yes, sir,” the young men answered.

“After, you will return to your quarters and rest. Collins, Archon, Nevartus, you will make damned certain that they do not overexert themselves further. Your future careers are predicated on their full recovery.

“You are all dismissed.” As they made their way slowly to the door, they stopped at the sound of the Justicar’s voice. “And don’t make me regret this course of action.”

“No, sir,” they all answered, and left the room single file.



The mood in the corridor was the definition of mixed emotion. They had been handed one of the highest honors afforded to Adepts. They had betrayed the trust of a man they admired more than they could say. At the moment, the disappointment in themselves was overshadowing the promotion. It was the cadets’ first wartime experience. They earned something of great value but at great personal cost.

They walked together in silence, until they reached the point they had to split up. They stood for a moment, not looking at each other, and it reminded Jensen so painfully of a group of kids leaving the principal’s office after a paddling that he almost wanted to laugh. He felt Jared’s hand on his bicep, gently leading him away from the group and to their destination. They walked shoulder-to-shoulder, soaking up as much comfort from the other as they could. They never looked back, but didn’t have to, knowing that Sasha, Jager and Misha hadn’t moved and were watching them. They felt the weight of their gazes until the hallway turned. They were out of view, and alone for the rest of the journey to the commons.

The constant emotional whiplash was getting to them. They could feel the weight of the black card folios in their pockets, reminding them that they were now officially “Gemini.” The elation lasted for a few seconds before they remembered the dressing down Misha and the others took. The same startling wrench hit them when they thought of the relief of just spending some time with their friends and then remembering they had only a couple of hours before they had to haul two of them into the Justicar’s office for the briefing from hell. They would tell Tom and Erica, of that they had no doubt, but they almost wished they could spare their friends the burden.

The entrance to the common room loomed in front of them, and there was nothing for it but to put on as normal a face as they could manage, and worry about later on, later on.

The usual warm welcome greeted them, along with a few barbs from Mike about “being too busy for their friends.” This was all very typical, but tonight, the jokes stung. They smirked as best they could, but Jared noticed a change in Tom’s expression. 

“So what were we studying tonight?” Jared asked brightly.

“We were stumbling through Ys Lit, but everybody wants to talk about the big news,” Erica answered.

“Big news?” Jensen asked cautiously.

“You really haven’t heard?” Mike asked incredulously.

“The miracle on the front line?” Alona added excitedly.

“Yeah, yeah, we saw that on the com earlier,” Jared replied.

“So what do you think about it?” Alona asked.

“Well, its great news that all those people lived,” Jensen said largely succeeding in sounding excited and not cautious. 

“Its amazing,” Alona gushed. “Nobody can explain what happened. Just all these people who were gonna die were healed.”

“Yeah,” Jared failed in matching her enthusiasm.

“So what’s the deal? Is this genuine apathy or an I’m-too-cool kinda thing?” Mike asked unkindly.

“Mike,” Tom hissed.

“No, it's okay,” Jensen said. “We really do think it's great that all those people survived that otherwise would have died. That’s astounding. But thousands still died, and there is still so much mystery around what happened, what caused it, all that, that we are just withholding any kind of judgment until we know more, okay?”

Mike looked rebuffed. 

Jared sighed, “Guys, listen, it's just us okay? We had hellish drills yesterday and a lot of stuff happened that nobody had foreseen and we’ve been asleep for damn near 24 hours recovering from it. So we are both a little out of sorts. Sorry.”

“Hey,” Tom chimed in, soothingly. “We get it. Stress fucks with all of us at some time or another. It’s cool. Why don’t we log some time with the Tragedies of Ylendrin and call it a night?”

Peace was restored, books produced, and the group settled into the quiet comfort of familiarity.

The time passed more quickly than either Jensen or Jared anticipated. When the friends finally parted ways, the two cadets subtly signaled Tom and Erica to wait. Once the room had cleared and the door closed, they turned to their friends.

“Guys,” Jensen began. “We need to talk to you both. There are some things we want to tell you, but before we do, Jared and I want to give you the choice to bow out.”

Both Tom and Erica began to protest, but Jared silenced them. “You need to understand what’s at stake here. This isn’t the kind of secret we tell you and later on you decide that it would be okay to tell someone really close to you. This is the kind of secret that if you tell anyone it could land you in a world of trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?” Erica asked.

“Like on trial for treason trouble.” Jensen said gravely.

“Guys, what the fuck is going on?” Tom said.

“We’re gonna give you two a couple of minutes to talk this over before you decide. This is really heavy shit, we understand that, and we would never hold it against either of you if you decided to pass, okay?” Jared said sincerely. 

The two young men walked out quietly, waiting outside the closed door. They were thankful that neither of their friends immediately followed them out, that they were both taking it very seriously. However, they were both relieved when the door opened and very somber faced Tom and Erica walked up to them and said, “Okay, we’re in.”

“We need you to follow us, okay?” Jared said, and the group headed down the now empty hallway. The trek to the Justicar’s office seemed much longer tonight than it actually was. Everyone was funereally silent. 

When they turned and exited the Core and headed to the Admin building, Erica whispered, “Are we going to Justicar Morgan’s office?”

Jared and Jensen nodded, walking into the building and up to the door. The biometric scanner engaged and the door opened. The two cadets led their friends in, finding Justicar Morgan and Optia Ferris seated by the fireplace. Jared and Jensen were still stinging from their earlier rebuke, and were every bit at rigid attention as their friends.

“At ease,” the Justicar said, gesturing to the available seats. “Have a seat.”

“Yes, sir,” Jensen and Jared said and moved to the love seat directly across from the other available seating. Once Tom and Erica were seated, silence descended. 

Surprisingly, Optia Ferris broke it. “I assume that Decurions Ackles and Padalecki informed you that you will be briefed on a secret of unusual import?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Erica answered. “They said that telling anyone could be considered treason.”

“That is correct,” Ferris answered. “And you have both decided that you are willing to bear that burden?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Tom answered. 

“You may be called upon to protect that secret, even at the cost of honesty with those closest to you. You will need to be able to effectively conceal all manner of knowledge of events from those closest to you. Are you prepared to go to those lengths?”

Tom and Erica looked at each other for a moment, their eyes widened. 

“Yes, ma’am,” Erica answered.

“Then this will count as your oaths. You have sworn to keep and protect a state secret at any and all personal cost.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they both affirmed.

“Then it's time for Jensen and Jared to tell you what happened yesterday,” the Justicar said.

And the two young men began their tale. They recounted in detail the events in the drill room. Every step on the path up to the reactor room. 

Jensen was trying to explain the process, how it unfolded, when Tom interrupted him. “Wait, you were pulling all of the energy out of three dark energy reactors?” he asked in a disbelieving tone. When Jensen nodded, he continued. “One of those generators produces more energy than all of Celestus can consume in a year.”

“Tom,” the Justicar interrupted him. “I know how outlandish this sounds, but it's true. Because it was a black op, the sensor logs from the room were deleted, but all the witness accounts confirm it. We had over 800 medics working at their maximum ability and they could barely keep the most critically wounded alive. The amount of medikinetic energy required to heal them is beyond our ability to calculate, but if we were to attempt to guess, the amount of power Jensen and Jared were channeling would be about right.”

Jared picked up the story from that point, finishing it up with waking up to the news report of the previous day’s events. 

“Now, I will add in the final details,” Morgan continued. “In the history of the Academy, we have never field-commissioned cadets before their 25th year, and we have no intention to start. However, because of the extraordinary nature of Jensen and Jared’s abilities, the Consul Executus and I have decided to employ a highly unorthodox solution. One that will allow them to continue their training and education, but in moments of the Republic’s greatest need, they can use their talents to help us all.

“Obviously, we cannot promote them publicly, and we cannot credit the events of yesterday to Decurions Ackles and Padalecki. That level of fame and notoriety would only prove disruptive, not only to them but to the entire Academy. As such, they have been granted black card status. What that means is that these two young men are now members of the Psionic Ministry’s most classified group of agents. No one but myself, ConEx, the Optia, their teammates, and now you two know of their status. 

“The results of this action will be that when a dire circumstance arises, they and their team will be deployed to address it. When on a black op, they will be completely concealed within battle armor. Their faces, their voices, names, anything that might identify them will be hidden. They will be known only as Gemini.

“We are making numerous exceptions in this situation that I am not fully comfortable with. One, in the history of PsiMin, we have never had BlackOps so young, and with good reason. Secondly, we have never allowed anyone beyond the Justicar, ConEx and the operatives themselves to know the identities of any of our agents. We included the Optia as she is directly responsible for Jensen and Jared. We included the two of you because you already know a great deal about the unusually powerful abilities of both of these men. In fact, I think you suspected they were involved in yesterday’s events before this meeting. Also, they will need confidants to help them deal with and process the things they will be called upon to see and do, and they will need people here in the Academy to cover for them in the event they are deployed into the field.”

“We understand, sir,” Erica responded.

“Also,” Jensen said, “the name ‘Gemini’ will be leaked to a few sources, and pairs of agents will be spotted publicly in full armor while we are very publicly not there. This will help separate us from any speculation about Gemini’s identity.”

“Got it,” Tom said. 

“If you talk about black ops events, you will do so in this office or in Jensen’s and Jared’s quarters. Nowhere else, understood?”

“Yes, sir,” all four answered.

“Do you have any questions?”

“This was all sort of overwhelming, sir,” Erica answered. “If we have any questions after it's all sort of sunk in, who could we ask?”

“Come here,” the Justicar answered. “I will answer your questions.”

“Thank you, sir,” Tom said.

“So, you really saved all those people?” Erica asked.

“Yeah, we kinda did,” Jared answered shyly.

“That’s pretty damned cool,” Tom smiled.

“Yeah,” Jensen answered. “But it came at a pretty high cost.”

“I had hoped you would not learn that lesson for a few years yet,” the Justicar said. 

“And now that we’ve learned it, so do we, sir,” Jared responded.

“Welcome to the war, son.”

Chapter Text

When Samuel Williams set foot on Therta Prime, his first words were “That’s a lot of grass.” He took fifteen-thousand settlers and created “the breadbasket of the Republic”. Therta natively grew grains so remarkably similar to Terran grains it took biologists years to find the genetic differences. The only anomaly on the verdant planet was the complete lack of land dwelling animals. For reasons still not clear, evolution never brought forward reptiles, birds, mammals, even insects. Geneticists used the stored genomes of a variety of Terran land animals and populated the planet with what species they felt certain would not damage the planet’s ecology. Three-thousand years later, the debate over whether the Thertans made the right decision still rages. These debates often occur as the participants enjoy large, juicy Thertan beef steaks. Millennia from now, will our descendants view us with the same disdain we view the ancient Terrans? Will there be descendants to disdain us?

 ― Interview with Justicar Conservator Julian Torrez as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3120 AT.


“Do you have a minute?” Tom asked as he and Erica jogged up to Misha who had just exited the building that housed his office.

“Only just,” Misha said. “So what can I help you with?”

Tom looked at Erica, and she nodded at him to begin. “Sir,” he said, halting at Misha’s disapproving glare. “I mean, Misha. We are very concerned about Jared and Jensen.”

“How so?” 

“It's been almost three weeks, and they aren’t themselves,” Tom explained. “They’re very subdued and quiet. They always seem to be tired.”

“We have to keep nudging them during lectures because they start nodding off,” Erica jumped in. “And they are losing weight. They just look gaunt, and we know they eat. We are with them during mess and they are eating bigger meals than any of us, but it's not helping.”

Misha continued to stare straight ahead, never lessening his pace. “We are aware,” he said cryptically.

“So what’s the plan?” Erica asked optimistically.

“Rest, increased nutritional intake, reduced required activities,” Misha said, uncharacteristically quiet.

“So exactly what has been the plan since they got back,” Tom spat out.

Misha stopped and turned on the empath. “Tom, we are at a loss of what to do to help them, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? They’ve been through every fucking test the MedLab can come up with, worked over by medics, and nothing. You think we don’t see what’s happening? Do you think we aren’t aware that they are wasting away before our eyes? Or is it you think we really just don’t give a fuck?”

Tom backed up a step, his eyes wide as saucers. His interactions with Misha were not extensive, but this red-faced man in front of him, with fire and pain in his eyes, was a shocking departure from the Misha he knew. Tom tried to placate him. “No, no, we aren’t saying that at all. We just wanted to know if you guys had come up with something new, and if we could help.”

Misha dropped his head, rubbed at his eyes and took long, deep breaths. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “You didn’t deserve that. I know you are worried. We are all worried.” Misha turned slowly and began walking again. The two cadets moved to follow staying slightly behind him. “I am guessing you picked this exact moment to find me so that you could follow me to drill?” he asked.

“If that would be okay,” Erica offered. “We know it's unorthodox…”

“What the hell?” Misha interrupted her. “We’ve tried everything else.”


They sat cross-legged with their armor fully extended, their features hidden behind the matte metal encasing their heads and the mirror-like “T” that covered their eyes, nose and mouth. The armor could not conceal the weariness that had plagued them for weeks. Their shoulders and heads slumped slightly forward. The suits’ heads-up-displays flittered streams of information, commands, and options before their eyes. They worked in silence, both struggling to keep their focus on the task at hand, of trying to master the sophisticated system.

Sasha and Jager stood off to the side, studying their two young charges. They could see the difficulty the cadets were having. It normally would have taken them a few days to complete it, but they had already been at it for fifteen. 

The declining state of these two men had hit all of them hard, but none more so than Misha. His usual laid-back, easy-going disposition had changed to sullenness. The fact that he was late to drill bothered his companions, but they hoped that maybe a break would do him good. When the blast doors finally opened, Jager and Sasha started at their unexpected guests. Even Jared and Jensen looked up.

“What are you guys doing here?” Jared asked, his voice modulated by the helmet’s com system. 

“We’re hoping we can help,” Erica said gently. 

An uncomfortable silence filled the room. Their helmets retracted, exposing their pallor. 

Jared spoke first. “Who put you up to this? Misha?”

“We ambushed Misha on his way here,” Tom answered. “Jay, we don’t know that we can do anything, but we want to try. At least here we can talk to you about it openly.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. We are doing everything we’ve been told to do,” Jensen explained. “We rest. We eat. We study. We show up for whatever tests they want to run on us. That’s the situation, and nothing has helped.” The bleakness in his voice, shocked everyone in the room except Jared.

“I don’t understand,” Erica pleaded. “Why can’t you heal yourself? You healed thousands of mortally wounded soldiers. Why can’t you do that for you?”

“Erica,” Jared began wearily. “If we try to use our abilities, it just hurts, and what little energy we can get out of the effort doesn’t do much.”

“Well, then do that energy gathering thing and use that energy,” she answered.

Jared and Jensen just looked at each other. 

“We haven’t tried to do that since the front,” Jensen started. “It usually doesn’t require much from us to start, but we don’t know if we can even do that anymore.”

“And if we can,” Jared continued. “It might take whatever else we have left.”

“What does that mean?” Tom asked.

Two identical shrugs answered back. Jared looked his old friend in the eye. “It means it would be over for us.”

Tom visibly swallowed, his eyes suspiciously moist. “Instead of gathering up that energy to turn it and launch it, or whatever it is you do, can’t you just absorb it? Use it to sort of recharge, I guess?”

Misha visibly perked up at the suggestion, watching Jared and Jensen closely.

The pair just stared at each other, their unnerving silent communication almost visible between them. 

When they looked back to the others, Jensen spoke. “We don’t see we have any other choice here. Everything else has been tried and it isn’t working. If this doesn’t work, well, at least we die on our own terms.”

Sasha looked away. Erica had seized Tom’s hand and was clutching it tightly. Misha stepped forward, and knelt down to be at eye level with the seated cadets.

“Whether this succeeds or fails, you two aren’t finished yet. Do you hear me?” They nodded, blinking back the tears. “Jager,” Misha said, “turn on the generator.”

The hum of the big machine resonated in the empty room. Jared and Jensen looked lovingly into each others’ eyes. They kissed once, and then clasped hands. The solid melted away and the universe of energy opened up before them. They saw the familiar patterns of their mentors, and discovered what Tom and Erica looked like in this in-between world. Immediately, they were shocked at how dim their own energy had become.

Jared and Jensen had barely completed the thought of how they wished they could rekindle their normal, vibrant glow, when the bright flow from the generator wound its way through the air and began to pour into the pair. At first, it looked like millions of motes of dust, lit by a sunbeam, but soon the drifting cloud became a torrent. A brilliant whirlwind of energy engulfed them, swirling about them as it was slowly absorbed into their own inner energy. 

The torpor of the last few weeks faded away. The faint ache that plagued every cell of their bodies dissolved. Replacing it was a renewed sense of vigor, a sharpening of their senses and faculties to what they had been before Utopia Planitia. As their energy levels continued to rise, Jared extended his left hand, gathering up power and easily changing it into the silver-green. The color spread, swirled into the pure white of the rest, and began to pour into their bodies. 

After long minutes, they stopped absorbing the energies, the bright tendrils dancing around them but never touching. With a deep sigh, they both released the flow, and it scattered harmlessly across the room. Jensen reached out and kinetically shut down the generator, and they slipped back into the solid to find five sets of wide eyes staring at them. 

The two young men did a quick check of their bodies, flexing fingers, hands, and arms to finally stand up on shaky legs. Their eyes locked, the connection feeling more present than it had in what felt like months. 

“We’re okay,” Jensen said softly. He turned to the others and in a much louder voice said, “We’re okay!”

Loud whoops were the only warning they got before they were swallowed up in a frenzy of hugs, back slaps, and even a few kisses. Misha’s grin looked like it might split his face in half. 

Misha held their faces in his hands. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again! Or I will end you myself!”

They laughed watery laughs, and hugged their mentor and friend tight. 

“You just gotta remember to plug us back in after,” Jared laughed. At that moment, both his and Jensen’s stomachs growled loudly.

“Son of a bitch!” Jensen yelled. “I’m hungry!”

Through the peals of relieved laughter, Misha squeezed his shoulder. “First, I know someone who we have to go see first. Or we will all end up in the brig.”



“Jeff, one of the only decent things about war is that we get to decorate individuals for acts of heroism.” Praetor Primus Hollis Andres sat in one of the large, comfortable chairs in the Justicar’s office in Celestus. “I’ve seen more than my fair share of strange shit in this war, but what happened on the front…” the older man sighed. “If I hadn’t seen the reports with my own eyes, I would say it was fiction, but since it is documented, only PsiMin could pull something like that off.”

Jeffrey moved to stare out the window-wall over the capital city. The PsiMin Tower was one of the newest buildings in the city, built only three hundred years ago, when the Ministry first formed. It still stood hundreds of meters higher than any other edifice. The Justicar’s office and chambers occupied the top three floors, and offered uninterrupted views in all directions. From his position, he could see the rings of the city as they rippled outward around the primal forests, and ending in Potomac Bay. Celestus bore herself with the beauty and dignity and grace of a great city. He had spent untold hours in this room, and the view never failed to draw him in.

The Praetor’s words reverberated within his skull. It wasn’t the first time they had this discussion, but with each passing day, Jeffrey came closer to acquiescing to the commander’s wishes. The reports coming to him from the Academy pointed to an early end to Gemini’s career. 

“Hollis,” Jeffrey said softly. “Yes, what happened on Utopia Planitia was heroic. It deserves to be recognized and celebrated. I understand how desperately the Republic needs heroes, especially heroes that saved tens of thousands of lives. But more than that need, these individuals need to be left alone. They need to enjoy their anonymity for as long as we can preserve it.”

“I don’t understand your reticence,” Hollis countered. “We are talking about medals and accolades and adoration.”

“You are also proposing constant media scrutiny and the suffocating weight of the hopes and dreams of all of humanity baring down upon them.”

“That’s a burden you bear every day, old friend,” the older man said fondly.

Jeffrey smiled to himself, but it couldn’t dispel the weight in his chest. He turned and faced the commander of the Republic’s armed forces. He walked over to the bar and poured them both a glass of Thertan Whiskey. He settled into the chair next to Hollis’ and took several slow sips of the strong drink.

“Hollis,” he said. “They aren’t doing well.”

The older man took a long drink, waiting for his friend to continue. 

“I didn’t order them to the front. I didn’t even know about it until after, and since they returned, they are wasting away in front of us.” Jeffrey looked off into the distance, seeing the glimmer of the ocean. He took another drink and pinned Hollis with his gaze.

“Everything that happened at U.P. was done by two cadets who are three years from commission.”

Hollis almost choked on his whiskey. He searched Jeffrey’s face for any sign of a lie but found none.

“Only a handful of people know about them, and I intend to keep it that way. They are green, just coming to grips with their abilities. And I’m telling you this in strictest confidence. Their gifts? If we use the Ostigo scale, they are level 900 adepts. But the scale doesn’t even apply here. Their powers are almost god-like, and if we don’t do our best by them, that power will destroy them.”

“You think they would turn?”

“No,” The word carried all the adamance he could muster. “They would never turn against us, but they would destroy themselves to save us. Hell, as far as we can tell they did just that.”

“I see,” Hollis said after a lengthy silence, and Jeffrey knew, that at last, he did. All of the questions the praetor had danced around or just avoided out of respect for Jeffrey suddenly were answered. With one last swallow, Hollis finished his drink and set the crystal glass down on the table.

“Jeff, these are your people, so obviously you know what is best for them. I understand you not wanting to drag them into the lime light, but they deserve the highest honors their government can give them. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, hell maybe not until they get their commission. If things are as dire as you suggest,” he paused to carefully choose his words, “then I would rather pin the medals to their chests than drape them across coffins.”

Jeffrey flinched. The point was fair and well made. Before he could formulate his response, his wrist com emitted a gentle chime, the signal that the communique was from Misha. Afraid of what he would find, he slowly tapped in his security sequence. The message was simple:

Gemini has risen.

The relief he felt washed over him like a cool wave. He just read it over and over, to be certain he hadn’t misunderstood.

Hollis chuckled. “Jeff, go to your people.”

The commander got up from his seat, squeezing Jeff’s shoulder as he passed and exited the room.


When he emerged from the private teleporter, he was only moderately surprised to see Samantha waiting for him. While the hidden chamber within his office that housed the teleporter was a perk of his position, he rarely used the thing, preferring to arrive via the school’s primary teleporter or by shuttle. He smirked as he watched Samantha’s complete lack of surprise as he stepped off the pad. His old friend knew him well.

“They aren’t here yet,” she calmly said, a smirk of her own forming as she took in the sudden agitation in Jeffrey’s features. “As soon as Misha sent out the message, I told him to take them both to MedLab 1 for a quick scan. I figured it would give you time to wrap up whatever you were doing in Celestus. Also, I didn’t want you to appear too eager to get here.”

“How generous of you,” Jeffrey said with feigned annoyance. 

Before he could even ask how long it would be, Samantha glanced at her com and said “They are one their way.” She continued to tap on the smooth surface of her com, and the holoprojector in the conference table lit up, displaying a variety of graphs and data. “This is from the checkup they just had,” she input further requests in to the hologram. “I am overlaying the results from yesterday’s exam, and the ‘baseline’ exam from a month ago.”

They studied the information intently, checking every graph, searching for anomalies in the results.

Jeffrey pointed to two sets of graphs. “Their heart rate and blood pressure are better today than on the baseline. Also, look at the synaptic functions.”

“Also better than baseline. It looks like our boys are doing better than ever.”

Jeffrey raised an eyebrow at her uncharacteristically possessive tone. She raised an eyebrow back, and Jeffrey wisely decided to let it go. They were still pouring over the details and analyses when the proximity alert on the door went off.

Three soldiers and four cadets entered his office with blindingly bright grins. Jeffrey had to summon every bit of his training to keep his demeanor collected and reserved. He quickly realized he could have saved himself the effort for the complete lack of affect it had on his subordinates. Nothing could quell the jubilance of the hour. 

The visual change in Jared and Jensen was startling. Their color had returned. Their eyes sparkled with life. The only remnant of their ordeal was the weight loss they had suffered. 

“So is anyone going to clue us in on what the hell happened?” Samantha said with her usual gruffness.

“We forgot to plug them in after use,” Misha laughed. “Sorry, sorry. It was Tom’s and Erica’s idea. I’ll let them explain.”

“Sir,” Tom began. “We asked them if they could gather up energy and use it sort of recharge themselves. Misha turned on the generators in the training room and they just soaked up all that power.”

At the disbelieving expressions on their superiors’ faces, Jensen explained, “It’s true. Jay and I hadn’t gone back under since the reactor room, mainly because we didn’t know if we could anymore.”

“And we weren’t sure if we tried anything that it might not tap us completely,” Jared added.

“So you were afraid that if you tried to corral the energy to use it to heal yourselves, the power drain would kill you?” Samantha asked, her voice high and tight with concern.

The cadets explained the process as best they could.

Jeffrey looked nonplussed. “In light of this unusual solution, from this point forward, two things will happen. Every time you exert your abilities, Jared, you will funnel a portion of the energy into healing yourselves. Both of you will be mindful of your internal resources, and during the exercise you will use some of that power to recharge yourselves. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” they both answered.

“Misha, Jager, Sasha, you will work with them extensively on this. You have no higher priority.”

“Yes, sir.”

No sooner had they answered when Jared’s and Jensen’s stomachs grumbled loudly. 

Jeffrey chuckled. “Also, I am putting you both on liquid supplements until you have returned to your ideal weight. Don’t worry. They’ve improved the flavor. I hear the current generation tastes like Xeprian cream fruit.”

Samantha, who had been busy with her com, took that moment to chime in. “Considering the startling transformation the two of you have undergone this afternoon, I have ordered mess for all of us to be delivered here. Tomorrow, you can rejoin your peers, but tonight, I think it's best to keep the two of you out of the picture.”


The walk from the administration building and the upperclassmen dorms was a short one. Tom and Erica decided to extend their stroll by walking a loop around the outer ring of the Core. The dimmed lights along the floor pooled on the granite while the lateness of the hour brought out the countless stars twinkling down on them through the windows. They walked close to each other, not quite touching.

The festivities in the Justicar’s office had stretched well into the evening, though Jared and Jensen were the first to leave. With good food, good company, and a pronounced sense of relief, the rest of the group was hesitant to let the evening end. Tom and Erica had left before the others, giving their superiors a chance to talk without their subordinates overhearing. 

“Jay and Jen sure cut out early,” Erica said with contrived nonchalance. 

“Yep,” Tom answered, clearly not rising to the bait.

“They must still be tired.”


“Did they say anything to you before they left?”


Erica finally gave up fishing and just punched him in the arm. Tom’s response was to laugh loudly at her.

“Listen, empath boy, you better start sharing with the class.”

Tom laughed again. “Or what? You’re going to beat me up?”

“I just might. I know that you know why those two tore out of their own party an hour early.”


She hit him again. He laughed even harder, though he started rubbing his shoulder. 

Tom threw his hands up in mock surrender. “Okay, okay, I might know something, but before I tell you, you need to ask yourself one question: are you really prepared for the answer?”

Erica stared at him like the man had lost his mind. “Of course I’m prepared!”

Tom grinned like the cat that got the cream, tucked his hands in his pockets and continued walking. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he singsonged. 

Erica jogged to catch up with him. “Fine, I’m warned. Now start talking.”

“Well, since they got back from the front, they haven’t had the energy for anything other than eating and studying.” He paused, knowing Erica’s impatience would get the best of her.

“And?!” she exclaimed.

“So, they haven’t fucked in three weeks.”

Erica’s eyes got wide, and her jaw dropped. Then, she got a very shrewd look on her face. “That’s hot.”

It was Tom’s turn to look pole-axed. 

“Oh come on,” she teased. “They are two of the sexiest human beings we’ve ever met. The thought of them in their quarters going at it like wild animals doesn’t turn you on at all?”

“No!” Tom yelled. 

“I think you protest too much.”

“They are…how can you…that’s just…”

It was Erica’s turn to laugh at her friend’s expense. 

“I pretty much hate you,” Tom pouted, making Erica laugh louder. He turned to stomp away, and she ran up next to him, butting their shoulders together.

“Whatever,” she chided. “Turnabout is fair play and all that.”

Tom couldn’t fight his smile. 

“That’s quite a blush you got there,” she pointed out. Tom growled at her. “Aww, don’t be angry,” she attempted to soothe him. “And when you blush like this, you are completely adorable.”

The moment she realized what she had said, she almost swallowed her tongue. 

Tom nudged her shoulder with his. “Adorable, huh?”

“Shut up,” she mumbled. Tom chuckled and they kept walking.

After several long minutes of silence, Tom said, “When you get flustered, and you get those little crinkly lines between your eyebrows? Yeah, you’re kind of adorable, too.”

“Really?” she asked, her voice high.

“Yeah,” he answered softly. “And, you aren’t too bad to hang around with, either.” 

“You’re okay, too, I guess.” 

“And I don’t really want to think about how hard the last few months would have been if I didn’t have you to help me through it all.”

Erica placed a gentle hand on his bicep, stopping him and turning him to face her. She struggled to find words, to get her voice to work. He stared at her with a quizzical expression. After several false starts she said, “fuck it,” then grabbed Tom by the back of the head, and kissed him for everything she was worth. 

The move shocked Tom into complete stillness. His lack of reciprocation sent the exact wrong signal to Erica. She started to pull away, but before she could step backward, Tom wrapped his arm around her waist, pulled her close to secure his other arm around her shoulders and kissed her back.

How long they stood there, neither one could say. This kiss skipped all gears and went straight to fiery. Once loosed, the attraction between them burst forth, consuming both of them. Eventually, Tom pulled back, gently caressing the side of Erica’s face. He took her hand in his and led her toward the corridor exit.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“I have to throw my roommate out.”

Chapter Text

The great triumph of the Republic is not our technology, or our sophistication. Our ecological conservation, while admirable, did not propel our civilization above the quagmire that enslaved ancient Terra and birthed its doom. We achieved our masterpiece when we eliminated currency. The Mercantile Accords decimated class castes, need, want, and drudgery. In one document, from the group of people no one expected to abolish money, they set the peoples of the Republic free. Suddenly, anyone could achieve any dream, reach any goal. Our people were fed and cared for, and in trade, they gave our civilization unending riches in science, art, philosophy and many, many others. The end of material wealth birthed the richest era in mankind’s history.

– Excerpt from preface to “Riches Untold: Principles of Republican Economics,” by Justicar Economia Eleana Antipova, published 3102 AT


“Why haven’t scientist replicated a psionic wave?” a young man to Jensen’s far right asked.

“They’ve tried,” answered Professor Singer. “They have replicated the wave form, at least as it is recorded by our best equipment, but the wave had no effect. An artificial kinetic wave didn’t even cause air molecules to ripple. Add that to the list of psionic enigmas.”

“So, the only method we have to counter the silicates is to put adepts on piloted ships and get them as close to silicate vessels as we can,” the young man responded.

“You are, unfortunately, correct. Psionics have a range of only a few hundred meters, and that’s only the most powerful. Our energy weapons are only moderately effective against their ships. If they enter a psionic field, even only briefly, they die.”

“And we have zero idea why?” a female cadet at the front of the auditorium asked.

“We have hypotheses, but no data to back it up. Since the Battle of Thuban Prime, we have not had a single ground sortie with the enemy. Only space and aerial battles.”

“What is the mortality rate for the adepts on those ships?” Jensen asked.

“Overall, about 23 percent,” Singer answered gravely.

“The only class that isn’t put on those ships is medics?”

“Yes, the medics stay on base or in the larger ships. They have saved countless wounded, many of whom are Adepts.” Singer moved to stand in front of his lectern. “This class is called ‘Advanced Psionic’ tactics, because we teach you as many strategies for as many situations as possible, but also, it is my job to disabuse all of you of any foolishly romantic ideas you might have about war. There is no good thing that comes from this struggle we are locked in. No glory, no medals, no awards or ranks are good in light of the price paid to earn them. You must, solely because you were born Adepts, go face unspeakable hatred in the face and fight to the absolute best of your abilities. Unless something dramatic changes, I want you to look around you. Most of you have four years or less before you are sent to the front. Within three years, nearly half of you will be dead. If you don’t fight? All of you, all of us, every last human being will be dead.”

The silence hung over the room like a suffocating blanket, the sound of a few hitched breaths scattered around the room.

“Until we can find better, safer ways to fight this enemy, this strategy is our best hope. The men and women on this campus are the most powerful Adepts the Republic has ever seen. How that will change the face of this war, we don’t know. It is my most profound hope that it ends it once and for all.”



Eight days after their recovery, Jensen and Jared finally convinced their mentors they were ready to return to full drills. Misha had taken them through several exercises, demonstrating how to use their empathic abilities to calm and heal. They were nowhere near as adroit as Misha, but their progress encouraged them.

During a break, as they sat with their mentors, Jensen spoke up, “How many friends have the three of you lost in this war?”

The topic obviously summoned painful memories for the trio, but Jensen needed to know.

“I’ve lost five,” Misha answered. Jager had lost eleven, and Sasha seven. The cadets felt ice cold water down their spines. 

“Does the campus have the ability to measure psionic waves?” Jared asked. “Like how far away from the source a wave travels?”

“Yeah, we have a spectrometer,” Jager answered. “Why?”

“We want to see how far we can project the waves,” Jensen replied. “Maybe see if we could create a wave field.”

“To see how big of a net you can create to catch silicates in,” Sasha said, her eyes and tone disapproving.

Her attitude put Jensen on the defensive. “We aren’t pushing to get out on the front tomorrow, but this is the only strategy we have, and if we are going to be out there, we want to be prepared.”

“Jensen,” Misha said, “this isn’t like a muscle that you build its strength through exercise.”

“We know that,” Jared replied. “But if this is the go-to tactic, we want to know how to do it to the best of our ability, and we want a chance to see if we can improve it.”

They could tell that Sasha was moments from calling them out for hubris, but Misha stayed her. 

“I’m not opposed to trying it out, but it will take a lot of set-up. There is no way we could be ready before next term.”

The cadets were obviously disappointed, but mollified that they would at least get the chance. 

“For now,” Misha continued. “We have orders to follow, which means you two get to work on splitting your focus.”

Both young men groaned loudly, but they kinetically activated the generators and set their shoulders. They had work to do, and to them, the stakes were higher than ever.



The rest of the drill went well, and Jensen and Jared felt particularly stretched by the exercise. They left the training room tired, but satisfied. All five of them walked out together, chatting amicably despite the chill of the winter air. Misha was relating a tale of cramped quarters and bad rations, to which even Jager was laughing. The cadets were wiping their eyes, then a shadow passed over them.

They froze, completely still and silent. They had not had a vision in almost a month, but they knew that streak had just come to an end. They could tell what they were experiencing was not reality, but the impressions were much stronger than they had been. It looked as though a hologram had been superimposed over reality. The sun occupied two positions, one the late afternoon of reality, the other, morning, but shifted slightly. Whenever this vision was supposed to come to pass would be soon, but they still had time.

Then they saw the great, hideous ship, hovering over the Core like a brutalized piece of obsidian, its massive blackness broke the sky with a wrongness so great that the young men could taste the bile rising in their throats. They saw the brilliant bolts from its cannon ravaging the campus. They could hear the screaming, smell the burning. Then, the ship lit up from within and the world was consumed in flames. 

When the vision released them, they dropped to their knees. They emptied their stomachs, retching and coughing, the sounds of holocaust ringing in their ears. They felt warm hands on their necks, pets on their backs. They looked up and saw three worried faces. All of them were talking, but the boys couldn’t hear them. Jared began to hyperventilate. Jensen dragged him back toward him, both crawling backwards to get them clear of their sick. 

Jared lay back against Jensen’s chest; Jensen rocked them both, petting Jared gently as he hummed reassurances from his soul to Jared’s. Jared finally calmed, closed his eyes and tried to drive away what he had seen. The ringing in their ears passed, and they could hear their mentors, their words frantic. 

“We’re okay,” Jensen said hoarsely. “We’re okay, just give us a minute.”

When the pair tried to stand, strong hands were there to help them to their feet. 

“Let’s go to the admin building. It’s closest.” Misha led them to the nearest entrance.

Luckily, the Optia was in her office. She was alarmed at how pale and shaky Jared and Jensen looked, immediately leading them to the nearest chairs. Once they were settled, she turned glowering eyes on the three older officers.

“They had another vision,” Misha explained. “Everything was fine all afternoon until we were walking out of the annex. They just froze. When they came to, they collapsed, got sick, and couldn’t hear us. We brought them here as soon as we could because it was closest.”

“Jared, Jensen,” she said. “Can you tell me what you saw?”

They recounted the vision with vivid detail. The four older officers present couldn’t repress the chill it gave them.

“So, you didn’t see yourselves in the Core this time?” the Optia asked.

“No ma’am,” they answered.

“Are you in the same place each time?”

“No, we are in the same general area, but there are some differences in perspective each time,” Jared explained.

The Optia nodded in understanding, then looked off to the side, gazing at nothing as she processed what she had been told. After a few moments, she asked if they would be okay.

“Yes, ma’am,” they answered.

“Are you going to mess?”

Jared visibly paled at the suggestion, Jensen answering for both. “I don’t think we could keep it down.”

“Then you will take liquid rations.” The Optica's tone had the finality of slamming blast door.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You three, see them to their quarters, and see if the journey can be completed without incident.”

Misha saluted her, to which the Optica just rolled her eyes and hurried them all out of her office. She locked the room down, and brought up her secure com. “We have a situation.”



Jeffrey rarely traveled to this part of the city. The buildings were older, but in good repair. As a rule, administrators stayed within their own tertias. The Justicars technically belonged to the Executus branch, and most of Jeffrey’s dealing lay in that third of the city. The Lyraen Institute of Sciences and Humanities sprawled along the southwestern edge of the city, seemingly ignorant of the boundaries the rest of the city abided by. Jeffrey had no doubt the founders rather enjoyed that trick. 

In his career, he had been to the Institute probably fewer than ten times, certainly not enough to be comfortable navigating the expansive grounds. He trusted the shuttle’s navigation system to get him where he needed to be. Considering the labyrinthine directions, he was utterly at the machine’s mercy. He knew enough to know that the craft had veered away from the campus and was now weaving through the trees to the sparsely populated outskirts. The moment the forest canopy closed in over him, the ship’s lights shutoff, the interior dimming to barely perceptible levels. Even the gentle whirring of the engine quieted. No one should be able to track him.

When the craft landed, he looked down at the nav display to get his bearings. He exited the ship, and walked half a click deeper into the woods. He had no sooner stopped to look around when a three meter square section of rock wall rippled out of sight revealing a blast door.

He felt completely blind when the doors closed, not that the forest floor received much light at this time of day. A series of scanners lit up, running through a battery of identification protocols. The room plunged into pitch black darkness again, then floor lights came up, soft pools of light guiding his way. 

The room he finally entered gave him a profound sense of vertigo. A narrow walkway ended in a large circular platform suspended in the middle of a giant sphere, at least a hundred meters in diameter. Jeffrey couldn’t guess the actual size of the room as the entire sphere surface served as a giant computer interface. It looked to him like thousands of different sets of data, images, surveillance feeds, and some things he could begin to identify, crawling across the entire display. He had to focus on his feet and the handrail to keep from getting dizzy. When he reached the platform, he sat heavily in a large, well padded chair with a tall back and headrest. To his left, a man still in his youth, probably thirty years old, hummed to himself, reaching out and manipulating a floating set of numbers with his fingers, then brushed them aside.

“You weren’t traced,” the young man said. “I’m impressed.”

“I am not completely without skill,” Jeffrey answered. “I understand the need for stealth, but this is borderline paranoiac.”

“The game just got a whole helluva lot more complicated.”

Jeffrey didn’t reply. 

“The mystery communications are using a cipher that isn’t on record. No agency is using this, and it's a quantum leap from the toughest encryptions used in government.” An unintelligible stream of symbols moved from the background to the fore. With a few gestures, they transformed into a hologram. 

A sole hooded figure spoke in a voice so heavily modulated it could not be identified. “You moved too brashly,” the figure said. “At no point were you instructed to confront Morgan. You compounded your failure by forcing Ryselle’s hand and insulting him. You have proven yourself to be a pompous buffoon. You will make no further forays into the school or any of its members. You will not utter a sound regarding the mutants. Do not fail us in this. Your errors have forced us to take drastic steps. Another failure would not go well with you.”

When the image had dissolved into nothing, Jeffrey tapped his fingers on the armrest of his chair and said, “That was melodramatic. Surely you didn’t drag me out here for amateur theatre hour.”

“You underestimate me so, Jeffrey. That communication traveled along a private relay system.”

“There are no private relays.”

“There are now. I can’t trace them beyond two jumps. But I am working on it.”

“Did you intercept any other messages?”

“No, but now that I have their cipher, I know what to look for. I can’t identify the speaker, but I can tell you that he’s male and speaking from Tanaes.”

“I am assuming the alluded to ‘we’ are not all on one system.”

“A solid assumption. And there is one other thing.”

The room spun violently, stopping when a cube of densely packed code hovered in front of them. 

“That doesn’t really make any sense to me, Chad.”

“Good, it shouldn’t make sense to any human. I stared at this for days, but it wasn’t until recently, I got a clue.” Another smaller cube of data floated into view. “This was intercepted at Utopia Planitia 34 days ago.”

“The day of the attack?” Jeffrey tensed immediately. “That’s the silicate language?”

“As far as I can tell.”

“And this other is also in silicate?”

“Yes, I am using the other in an attempt to translate it, but its very slow going.”

“You are telling me that a cabal has installed a private relay system, is clandestinely trying to manipulate the government and sending information to the silicates in their own language?”

“You forgot one other important fact: he referred to Adepts as mutants.”

“Fuck. As if the war wasn’t bad enough. This doesn’t make any sense. These people are conspiring with our enemy to eliminate the only defense we have against that enemy?”

“I cannot say conclusively this transmission was sent to the silicates. I can’t say it was even generated by humans. It might be more intercepted code. I just don’t know. But that these people have it? No good can come from that.”

Jeffrey’s com sounded, an urgent message from the Optia. Before he even asked, the young man’s chair spun around and slid quickly out of the room, the door sealing behind him.

The Justicar listened to the report of the boys’ latest vision. His day had seen more than its fair share of bad news. Fortunately, they seemed to be recovering from the incident, and no damage had been done. When he disconnected, he looked up to find a hologram of a giant floating red button that flashed “press me when finished.”

When Chad rejoined him, Jeffrey was chuckling at him. “Clever.”

“I try.”

“Have you come across anything that might indicate a silicate attack on the Academy?”

“What?” Chad asked incredulously. 

“It was a long shot.”

“Jeff,” the young man reached out and grabbed his arm. “If you are getting some kind of info from Gemini? Use it.”

“If only I could.”

“So they say the Academy is going to be attacked?”

“They’ve seen it.”

“A vision?”

“Yeah, a fucking prescient vision. What are you smirking about.”

“Everyone said there were no oracular gifts. Just like they said there was no such thing as a technopath.”

“We have a great record of proving people wrong.”

“If there was ever a need for that particular talent, it's right now.”


Chapter Text

For generations, millennia, we lost our capacity to believe. In ancient times, our race sought out oracles and deities. They found strength in belief in something they could not see or touch or understand. The floodgates of scientific discovery, the apotheosis of the concrete and measurable, eroded away that tradition of faith until we had only tiny remnants. Gemini gave us back our faith. They restored our oracles, and trust in things unseen and ineffable. For better or worse, that will remain part of their legacy.

-- Interview with Consul Legate Teryn Adoyo as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3172 AT.


Urgency drove them both. It was nebulous, not nearly clear enough for either of their comfort, but they could pinpoint one thing. “Soon,” and it was enough for them to do everything they could to prepare. 

There was a strange sense of freedom, elation knowing that when “soon” arrived, they had no future beyond it. They struggled through the charade of studying for finals they knew they would never take. They focused on their drills with an intensity that continued to worry their mentors. Even the Justicar called them on it.

“Sir, we have to try,” Jared answered him. “We know that all logic and reason say this will never happen, and if it doesn’t, then that’s great. But if it does, we will do everything we can to stop it.”

Officially, their superiors had no recourse. They couldn’t evacuate the Academy based on premonitions. They couldn’t arm the entire valley against an attack that everything they could prove said could never happen. As the visions became more intense, the details clearer, they begged the Justicar and their mentors to relocate to Celestus, but all of them patently refused. They may not be able to prove the veracity of the visions, but they all believed what Jensen and Jared told them would come to pass. 

If the attack came, they would all be there, side by side, to face it.

In every off moment they could spare, the cadets familiarized themselves with their battle armor. Misha worked with them. They were rapidly mastering the many facets of the displays and the configurations of the plates. They even found a setting that allowed them to wear the armor for hours at a time, retracted to the point that it was not noticeable without very close examination. 

Gemini would face down the enemy. One last battle of the enigmatic operatives’ short careers.

With their mentors’ help, they implanted sleeper programs in the Academy’s central computer. When activated, they would sound the alarm for all cadets to run to the underground bunkers. They would turn all reactors and generators to full. They would trigger the Lyrean planetary defense grid. They would send a distress signal to the fleet. It wasn’t much, but it was the best they could do.

Tom and Erica knew something was going on. Finally, the two young men relented and told their two closest friends. They expected disbelief or at minimum, skepticism. Instead, their friends accepted everything they told them as certainty. Jared and Jensen made them swear that when it went down, they would watch over the rest of their friends, assure that they were safely in the bunkers. 

Tom began asking questions about their abilities, how they could channel energy and change it. He wanted to know how they drew power from other Adepts and used it. They demonstrated, though it made them both uncomfortable. After each battery of questions, they repeatedly made Tom swear that he wouldn’t do anything stupid and would get to safety. The fact that he only swore to not do anything stupid did little to assure them.

It had been a little over seven weeks since the incident at Utopia Planitia. Much of the furor had died down, and just as the Justicar warned them, the name “Gemini” was popping up in various reports, blurry images of two armored figures making the broadcasts. Their identities were secured. Jared once wondered aloud how they would handle the death of Gemini. Jensen shut him up with a kiss.

No matter the rigors of their schedules, they made love every night and many mornings. It was never hurried or desperate. Every touch whispered their love and gratitude at having found each other. They never allowed regret to taint those moments. They shared their bodies fully with each other. Jared might prefer to feel the fullness of his lover inside him, but he never denied Jensen when he asked Jared to make love to him. They fell asleep every night wrapped in each others' arms, each drowsy kiss, a benediction.

No one mentioned it, but their increased closeness was manifesting in their every day activities. They began finishing each other’s sentence. They had complete conversations with each other without uttering a word. They often touched, holding hands, walking pressed tight against the other’s side. If it weren’t prompted by a sense of hopelessness, Erica would call it sweet. As it was, she looked on them both with sadness and great affection.

When they weren’t in drills, the two young men knew they were being shadowed. Misha, Sasha, Jager, Tom and Erica were never far away. They couldn’t begin to express their love and appreciation for all of their friends. More often than not, when they exited the drill room, they found Tom and Erica waiting for them. Even the older officers began taking evening mess with them. If it drew attention, they all chose to ignore it.

They had one more day of the weekend before finals began the next morning. Erica came to fetch them from their quarters. Behind her, Tom was carrying a large pack, and they dragged their friends out into the late morning light. They hiked south of the Academy campus, following the well-known meandering path through the trees. Familiarity didn’t dampen the effect. They all gasped at the moment the trees parted to reveal the huge, still lake, reflecting the snow coated trees and capped mountains in mirror-smooth perfection. 

Jared and Jensen never commented on how cold it was, how many warm rooms at the Academy would be more suitable for a picnic than this frozen wilderness. They took this as the gift it was. They closed in on a familiar sitting area, the logs coated with snow, and the fire-pit obviously unused since the last snowfall. Erica melted off the snow on the seats, the steam rising up into the cold air. Tom lowered his pack, and pulled out a compressed gas burner, setting it in the middle of the fire-pit and activating it. The bright flames sprung up, pushing out clouds of evaporated water. Immediately, the area became warm. 

They all helped Tom unload the many containers of food. They were about to open them and serve out plates when they heard a familiar voice call out to them. They turned to see Misha, Sasha and Jager walking towards them, smiling and waving. 

Misha plopped down on a cleared area of log, kicked his feet out, and asked what they had to eat. 

“It’s good to know that in any situation you will think with your stomach,” a deep voice called out to them from the path. The cadets all stared slack-jawed as the Justicar Psionica and the Optia of the Academy joined them around the fire. Jared finally nudged Tom out of his stupor to start serving up their lunch.

A few moments of awkward conversation gave way to an ease and comfort. Each of the three groups brought stories from their times at the Academy. Morgan and Ferris were telling a wild tale of a prank gone wrong, and the other seven Adepts were struggling to remain upright as they were wracked with laughter. Jared and Jensen had no memory of their commander smiling so much, and they were certain they had never heard this unfettered laughter from the man. 

The afternoon ebbed away unnoticed, the camaraderie and good cheer filling the hours. The sun shone brilliantly off the placid surface of the lake, and they knew the time had come to return to campus. 

They packed up, and took one last moment to sit with each other. “Jensen, Jared,” Morgan said. “I know you think that whatever is coming, there is nothing after that. Maybe you are right, but you might be wrong about that. If anyone can change that fate, it's the two of you. But whatever happens, I want you two to know that I am extremely proud of both you. For whatever reason, you have had an awesome responsibility dumped on you both, and you have risen to that challenge beyond anything that any of us, regardless of rank and experience, could have hoped. I am proud to have known you both, and it has been my great pleasure to have had the opportunity to serve with you.”

“Here, here,” Farris said. The rest of the group joined her in their agreement. The two young men were speechless and their eyes glistened. The troop left the secluded area, soaking up the beauty of the winterscape around them. Their first view of the valley came as the sun was starting to set: orange, red, pinks, and purples painting the entire landscape in gorgeous and surreal colors. The shadow of the mountains stretched farther and farther out, and the Academy lay there, glistening like a jewel, the fading sunlight and the lights from the buildings glittering.

They parted ways under the branches of the last trees of the wilderness before the buildings intruded. They all hugged each other, even the Justicar. It was a soldier’s farewell, a moment pregnant with meaning and emotions too deep for language. It was “be careful,” “love you,” “hope we make it through,” and a flurry of sentiments unsaid. They held onto those brief minutes and each other. Then, as night fell, they headed inside, to their respective quarters.



The classroom core of the Academy Psionica was composed of three massive, perfectly circular concentric rings, connected at eight evenly spaced points by corridors running through all three rings. It lay like a giant symmetrical wheel, the spire at its hub. Each ring had two back-to-back rows of seminar rooms and other facilities flanked by massive corridors, giant arching windows providing an uninterrupted view from the floor to where they met the wall of the classrooms some fifty meters over head. 

Jensen and Jared stood in the outer hallway of the innermost ring. They stood facing each other, clutching hands. They rested their foreheads together. This was their moment, and it would be all too brief.

Five minutes prior, at the end of the first final exam, a few hours into the start of a new week, the drill sirens sounded, and shocked students abandoned their tests and moved swiftly but orderly to the underground bunkers. As their classmates filed out, Jensen and Jared received the Justicar’s alert.

One of the gravity well generators on the front, one of the massive units that created the wall of gravitons that prevented trans-light travel into the core of the Republic, was destroyed. A relatively small alien fleet attacked the generator, over two-hundred ships focusing the entirety of their weapons on a fixed point in space that every instrument, every visual reconnoiter would report as empty space. They should have had no knowledge of its location, and yet they punched a hole in the Republic’s greatest defense. 

That morning, a fleet of alien ships encircling a large warship of a configuration never seen before dropped out of TL at the wall and attacked the generator. As the gravitons collapsed in the sector, the strange ship slid through the small opening as if designed to do so, and disappeared into trans-light speed. The best estimates put it at Lyrea in five-to-ten minutes. 

The Republic fleet wiped out the remainder of the enemy fleet, but were too late to stop the warship. The Justicar had sounded the alarm, too late to evacuate the Academy, but soon enough to get as much of the student body and faculty as possible into the bunkers. A full enemy warship, unchecked, attacking a relatively undefended position. No one would say it, but even in the bunkers, the potential for survival was dismally low.

The Justicar’s final message had been only for them. “We have been given more warning than we hoped for. It goes to prove, there was always hope. Whatever happens today, I will see the both of you on the other side of it.” They felt something warm unfurl in their chests. Maybe they could make it through this.

Days before, Jensen and Jared had chosen this specific position. Under their feet, some meters below the floor lay the largest of the three power relays from the reactor chamber. Here, it branched off to feed energy to most of the Academy’s facilities. The bustle of the cadets rushing off to safety still echoed through the massive halls, but they could only hear each other’s breathing and the gentle hum of all the reactors and generators on the campus ramping up to full. They could see the swell of their power. 

Now they only had to wait.

“I love you, Jay,” Jensen whispered. 

“I love you too, Jen.”

They kissed briefly with all the passion they could muster. When they broke apart, Jensen nuzzled his nose against Jared’s. With deep breaths, they pulled back and triggered their armor. The helmets folded up and over their heads, blacking out the outside world until the heads up displays kicked on. The visor read outs showed movement behind and headed toward them, and they turned to see Misha, Sasha, Jager, Morgan and Ferris all headed toward them in full battle armor. 

“You didn’t think we would let you face this alone, did you?” They heard Misha’s voice over their coms. The modulators were all deactivated, and for now, for this, that was just fine. The group stood side-by-side behind the two young men, upon whose shoulders the outcome of this all rested. It was a burden none of them wanted for either of the cadets, but since they couldn’t lift it from them, they would support them to the end.

Jensen began channeling huge conduits of power, pulling them up through the floor, from around them, gathering them up into a tight incandescent ball hovering above their heads. He suspected that without their visors, they might be blinded, but the visor compensated and he could see the orb, the corridor, his friends, and even the landscape outside. The orb grew to almost a meter in diameter when the computers in their suits sounded an alarm. 

Their eyes scanned the skies, their focus on the reticle the display placed where the alien ship would come through. The clouds overhead began to churn, and then boil and then roll in huge seething roils. Then the thunder came, louder, stronger and longer than anything devised by nature. The intensity increased until the whole of the building quaked with it. Klaxons began to sound throughout the campus when the first glimpse of the alien ship pierced the veil of cloud. 

The sight was terrifying. 

Masses of vapor clung to the forward shields surrounding the black craft, rolling off and away revealing more of the ship. They had seen nothing like it in all of their studies of silicate craft. The suit computers tried to overlay various images from the database of alien craft, an almost dizzying procession of image over image until the error displayed. It was, in fact, a complete unknown, spear-shaped and bristling with weapons all along its surface, more cannon and blasters than had ever been reported on one enemy craft. Without doubt, this vessel had been built for the express purpose of pushing through the graviton field, entering Lyrea’s atmosphere, and destroying the Academy.

The silicates solely intended it to destroy every Adept in the Republic from age twelve to twenty-five. At this moment, two cadets, not old enough to fight on the front, stood between them and their goal. The silicates would either win the war on this cold and clear morning, or the tide would change forever.

The ships velocity slowed, but still moved with frightening speed. Its descent finally halted, meters above them, and they heard the collision, heard the crack and groan and scream of tortured metal and shattering glass as the forward shield of the vessel collided with the Spire. The tall, proud and beautiful structure collapsed, toppling over, and crashed into the inner ring of the core. They watched the shadow of its destruction, swinging wrongly overhead and down somewhere behind them. They felt the impact with the building they were standing in. They heard the screech of metal twisting and glass shattering. And then they heard the screams. Some cadets, maybe faculty were still in the building. They couldn’t tell if they were screaming about the monstrosity hovering menacingly over their heads, or the destruction of the spire. Maybe people had been hurt. They couldn’t tell and they couldn’t render aid.

Their fight was here.

Jensen and Jared saw the flows of power within the enormous craft. They saw the glowing paths of energy like veins, throbbing under the gleaming surface. The thing was hideous. Flat planes and angles slammed together without any perceptible purpose or aesthetic. It was an ugly weapon designed for an uglier purpose. The veins pulsed and began to glow brighter, and now it was time.

Jared joined Jensen, pulling as much energy from the reactors, the sunlight, and every source at hand. Bright threads flowed out of the orb, weaving complex patterns, over and under. The tapestry began immediately above them, between the classroom core and the ship. More filaments flew up and outward to join the others, the matrix knitting together and spreading slowly in a hemisphere. They had never attempted one of this scale. It was the shield of their own design, devised to absorb every kind of energy thrown at it and transform it, reinforcing itself. It was far too complex to replicate with machines, and in its way, it was truly beautiful. Curving arcs of dazzling light, twisting and turning, wrapping around and through each other, composing an elaborate web of luminescence.

Finally, the matrix set up, the lines stabilized, stretching out around them to encompass most if not all of the campus. 

It was the hardest thing they’d ever done, and the strain was making them sweat and breathe heavily. They were still funneling energy into it to strengthen the matrix, and were pushing to the limits of their abilities when the first barrage from the enemy ship’s cannon hit. Nine massive bolts of lethal power slam into the shield, and the cadets felt it start to buckle. The points of impact were unraveling, under the assault. They poured more energy into that area, a thousand filaments flying out from them, weaving around the buckling framework they so carefully constructed. They needed more, and dug deeper, pulling power out of sources they couldn’t identify. The sunny sky darkened as the light was absorbed and channeled.

It was just barely enough. The flickering strands that moments before verged on collapse, brightened and the lattice of light was restored. The next bolts from the ship shattered, careening across the surface, but weren’t pulled into the shield and converted into additional power and support for the deflector. The moment drew out for what felt like an eternity, and Jensen and Jared were certain they have failed. 

Almost in a split second, the whole of the shield stabilized, and the bolts disappear into the matrix. They could feel it strengthen. The next bombardment hit, more cannon, more power, and the shield held, rippled, and then absorbed the power, gaining strength. It was a slight break, enough to allow them to catch their breath, as the enemy continued to blast away futilely at the deflector. Their only means of defense was holding fast. 

They started drawing as much power as they could from the Academy’s conduits, from the sun itself, but instead of pouring it all into bolstering the shield, they gathered it in another orb. Just like they had practiced in drills, Jared changed a small flow to healing energy to mend his and Jensen’s bodies, to bolster them. They were now in phase two, and it was farther than either young man thought they would get. To end this, they had to move to the offensive. Hopefully, they would have enough power, and internal strength, to make it farther.

Channeling the energy and maintaining the structure of the deflector was taxing, but they were managing it. Every weapon on the surface of the ship blazed, crashing into the shield and only strengthening it. The threads multiplied, thickened, and glowed with ever increasing intensity. Within minutes the shield itself glowed and became opaque with power. Suddenly, the weapons silenced, and they watched as the ship’s engines fired, pushing the massive craft straight at them. The shield of the ship crashed into the deflector and what looked like a thousand glowing strands reached up to it, wrapping around it, stripping the deflector from the ship, absorbing the power into its own. As the ship’s shields collapsed, the nose of the vessel collided with their defensive shield. The forward decks crumpled, the shield converting even the kinetic energy of the crash.

The destroyed nose of the vessel curved inward, outlining the edge of the cadets’ deflector. The forward momentum of the ship stopped, and the enormous craft froze in midair, suspended at an angle. The site was strange and terrifying, but the best possible scenario.

This was it. Jensen and Jared were certain they had won. The ships weapons were useless, and even ramming the deflector failed. They were both smiling, about to speak, when they saw the veins of power on the ship dry up. They were intently staring at the craft, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and they saw them.

The material layers of the craft dissolved away, and tens of thousands of tiny, swirling clouds of energy came into view. They saw the aliens themselves moving through the ship. The power signatures were strange and unlike anything they had ever seen before. To their horror, the two young men realized they were sensing the emotions and thought patterns of the silicates. The only word to describe it was “alien.” They couldn’t even begin to make sense of it, but the sensations were there. These were living, sentient beings. Their emotions may be inscrutable to humans, but they were no less real. 

This day would end with either those creatures killing thousands of humans, or two cadets killing tens of thousands of silicates. This was the meaning of war. In that moment, a fraction of time frozen and suspended, Decurions Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki felt the last vestiges of their innocence die. Today, when the greatest concerns of thousands of young people in these halls was to survive the day and finish their exams, the price of victory for two of their classmates, the cost two young men would have to pay to secure that future for them all, would be to transform themselves into mass-murderers. 

They didn’t have time to process this, before they felt the change. The constellation of alien life forces altered into something else. They weren’t quite sure what, but if felt almost like sadness. In the heart of that tiny galaxy of lights, power began to build up, contained but glowing brighter and brighter. 

The aliens were going to overload the reactor and detonate their ship. Jared and Jensen had read about dark energy power plants overloading, self-destructing. Many claimed it to be the most violent and catastrophic event outside of supernovae. The deflector would theoretically be able to absorb the explosion and protect the Academy, but the blast would destroy everything within a five-thousand kilometer radius, tear a hole in the atmosphere, and flood the planet with lethal radiation. For all intents and purposes, the aliens would destroy Lyrea.

Jensen and Jared saw the cataclysm unfold in their minds with crystal clarity, and they fought back tears. The ship would go critical in seconds, and whatever they were going to do had to happen now. With a silent nod to each other, and an unending stream of “I love yous” through their connection, they closed their eyes. 

The two young men threw their heads back and opened up everything within them. Ropes of blindingly glaring power tore up through the floor, out of the walls. Relays and conduits exploded, showers of sparks all across the compound. Thousands of thick filaments reaching out to the two young men. Cities across the continent blacked-out, the energy diverted. The shield they created began to unravel, adding thousands more thick, brilliant streams of power to the masses converging on the cadets. The number of beams was impossible to guess, but they all converged at a nexus. They intersected at two armored figures in a mostly empty hallway. 

The last of the shield collapsed, and the ship began to fall toward them. A massive beam of light, so white and incandescent that the midday sky looked like night, blasted out of the two obscured figures, vaporizing the walls and windows that stood between it and the ship. It slammed into the front of the alien craft, and it looked like nothing happened. Jared and Jensen were still pulling all the power from beneath and around them, pouring it into the beam. They pulled in the power from the overloading alien power plant, itself. The world went silent.

And they whispered “stop.”

All of that energy, the incomprehensible mass of force, changed to an ice blue color and the beam consumed the warship. The light faded, and the ship simply hung there, but through the eyes of the two cadets, they saw that every atom, quark, and muon of the vessel had frozen, unmoving.

With the last of their strength, they blasted the craft with a kinetic burst, and the enormous ship shattered. It was like watching a crystal the size of a large city disintegrate into tiny, glittering shards, exploding outward in all directions, fragments no larger than a centimeter across, tinkling against the glastinium windows all around them. Caught in the wind and swirling around, a billion tiny mirrors danced in the sky like the fireworks of old.

A shower of sparkling luminescence fell through the blast hole above them, gruesomely glorious, coating their helmets and suits. The sun touched them, and set them both alight.

They saw the sun shining brightly, refracting off of the incomprehensible cloud of particles in a heavy rain of radiance. It was beautiful. It was the image of success, of victory. It was the most spectacular, gorgeous act of mass-murder ever seen, and they created it. 

The Republic, their fellow cadets, and their friends were safe now. It was over, and that was good. Because the two young men had nothing left. They gave their all, sacrificed more than they ever thought they would have to pay. Their vision grew dark around the edges, and their hold on consciousness was slipping.

But they won. It was worth it.

They smiled, and closed their eyes.

And they knew no more.

Chapter Text

Heroes are the fuel of the myths that define our collective understanding. We tell of them in bedtime stories, in history classes, in scrolls and holovids. Heroes are presented as the pinnacle of human existence. What we fail to teach, to include in our lessens and stories, is the extraordinary price these individuals pay to become heroes. Without exception they lose something precious and deeply personal, the cost charged to save or better or secure all the rest of their race. To be a hero is to have the most sacred of all you have destroyed, by your choice, to purchase the greater good. It is to be painfully diminished, that he or she may be, in turn, exalted. That is, after all, why we call them heroes.

-- Interview with Justicar Conservator Julian Torrez as entrusted to Pontifex Sryon Toliver in 3120 AT.


Thirteen young men and woman lost their lives in the assault on the Academy Psionica. They hadn’t believed the alarm to be a real emergency, thinking it only a drill. They lagged behind, and when the spire fell, they were crushed under the weight of the fallen tower and the debris from the shattered segment of the inner ring of the classroom core. Fourteen more were injured.

It was a tragedy, but the alternative was much worse. It was an outcome that Justicar Psionica Jeffrey Dean Morgan could only have hoped for in his wildest dreams. The fifteen-thousand-plus Adepts at the school survived, because two young men stood in the path of horror and turned it back. 

Satellites recorded the entire encounter, some able to zoom in close enough to capture brief images of two armored figures, single-handedly stopping what should have been the most devastating alien attack ever recorded. The combined footage from the orbital platforms ran in a continuous loop since about thirty minutes after the attack ended. 

From one end of the Republic to the other, the cry of “Gemini” spread like wildfire. Celebrations sprung up all over, and Gemini were the great saviors of the Republic. 

At this moment, in an area of the Academy cordoned off, all entrances heavily guarded, Jeffrey Morgan sat with Misha Collins, Sasha Nevartus, and Jager Archon, in uncomfortable chairs and even more uncomfortable silence. Thirty-six hours had passed since the alien ship was destroyed. None of these four officers had slept since then. They mindlessly ate what was brought to them. They drank when prompted. But nothing else really mattered compared to the complete focus of their attention.

Lying perfectly still, in a large bed, surrounded by an array medical equipment laid two young men. They looked even younger than normal, their faces smoothed over by a deep and impenetrable sleep. They had not moved, or made a sound, since they had fallen boneless to the ground, a cascade of glittering lights falling all around them, casting strange shadows and patters on their armor. Misha and Jager had carried them here, led by Jeffrey. The finest medical personnel in the Republic had been summoned to attend them. 

The reports had not changed since the first one; physically, the medtechs couldn’t find anything at all wrong with them. The tell-tale damage to their hands, like they had suffered at the front, was missing. The medkinetics tried various healing techniques, but nothing nudged them closer to wakefulness. Gemini were in a coma, and they would remain there until they were ready to wake up. Or they wouldn’t wake up at all.

The men and women attending their very special patients moved and worked silently, filled with purpose, tasked with the wellbeing of heroes. Jeffrey wished they knew that those two young men were so much more. 

His office issued official statements. Representatives had granted interviews with the press, but no one outside of this room had seen the Justicar. Optia Samantha Ferris, Mistress of Disciplines at the Academy Psionica, had been through more interviews in the past day than the whole of her career. She and her staff dealt with distraught, and for a terrible few, grieving parents. The onslaught of communique attempts to the Academy finally resulted in the shut down of the general communication node. Waves of students were allowed to contact their parents in shifts. So far, she had been able to tame the chaos, but all she wanted was to be in that room with her friends and peers, watching over the too-still forms of two cadets she had grown to care for probably more than she should.

They hadn’t added Jensen’s and Jared’s names to the wounded list. They hadn’t decided if it was time for the billions they saved to know that they were in fact Gemini. Finals had been canceled. After the memorial service, cadets would depart for home as soon as arrangements had been made. Jeffrey had no choice but to wait for the campus to empty out and then bring the families of these two young men here to Lyrea. He hoped that by the time they arrived, the cadets would have awakened. 

So, they waited. 

Jeffrey mentally prepared his remarks for the service. The deaths were senseless. It’s always difficult to give the eulogy for lives that could have been saved had they only done what they were supposed to. The circumstances didn’t diminish the loss. Hopeful young lives were extinguished by an incomprehensible cruelty. Additions to an already too long list of fatalities in a war that had gone on too long. 

He knew the Gemini enigma was crumbling. Two armored figures clearly collapsing had been playing over and over on holoprojectors across the Republic. Two young men who weren’t on any casualty lists but were conspicuously absent from the campus. Jeffrey’s desire to hide them from the world was flagging against his need to let their friends and family be here with them, whatever the outcome. 

In truth, the subterfuge was just too damned much effort. Just like every person standing in that corridor, he felt the moment the magnitude of the atrocity they were going to have to commit hit Jensen and Jared. Felt it like it was his own pain and grief and outrage. Every time he thought on it, he just felt old and tired. They had gone through so much, sacrificed so much, lost so much, how could he withhold the praise and adoration that was their due?

Jeffrey's head dropped, hanging heavily between his shoulder blades, hunched over in the chair. He knew the opinions of the people in this room. He knew Samantha’s opinion. And he knew that whatever he did, they all would support them. The heart of the issue was what was the best thing to do for these two young men. For when they woke up. Because they would wake up. 

He rubbed his face, his eyes, running his hands through his hair. He had a choice to make, and putting it off wasn’t in the best interest of these cadets. He stood up, and headed to his quarters for a shower, some coffee, and then a long chat with the Consul Executus. If there was any change in the boys' conditions, he knew one of their mentors would contact him immediately. 

The walk down the hallway was long and lonely, and Jeffrey couldn’t recall a time when he’d been this weary.



Samantha Ferris walked alone, her ears filled with the echo of her footsteps in the empty arcade of the inner ring of the core. She looked through the windows at the courtyard. Crews had extracted the wreckage of the spire from the crushed section of the core. The presence of students on campus prohibited removal of the pieces, which were stacked in the center of the vast reflecting pool, where the proud building once stood. The tiny fragments of the alien ship had been swept away from the buildings, and most of the rest buried under new snow. They showed up in unexpected places, and she wished for nothing more than to remove them all permanently from the valley.

Forcefields had sealed off both sides of the broken corridor, preventing the cold air from flooding the whole core, and curious onlookers from wandering into the dangerous and exposed area. She could see the broken section of the ring through the windows, and a familiar figure standing near the wreckage. 

As Samantha approached, the man didn’t look up, the steaming mug of coffee in his hand seemingly forgotten. She quietly walked up next to him, standing still and silent nearby.

“I spoke with ConEx,” Jeffrey said softly. “I have decided to take Gemini public.”

Samantha nodded, but didn’t speak. She wasn’t entirely surprised. It was far from the ideal solution, and there were a lot of negative consequences, but she couldn’t argue against the positives. She would just work doubly hard to mitigate any negatives. 

“I’ll do it after the memorial service, open the conference up to any cadets who want to attend. They deserve to be told in person who saved them. And Jensen’s and Jared’s friends, they deserve to be with them right now.”

“Their families?” she asked gently.

“I am going to contact them. Ask them to get to Lyrea before I head back to sit with them.”

“I’ll arrange for them to have quarters while they are here.”

“Thanks,” he said as he lifted the mug and took a sip of the hot bitter brew.

“Have you slept?”

“Not much.”

“Then you need to do that. Any change and someone will wake you.”


“Go to your quarters. I’ll send a tray to you. Eat, then sleep.”

“Is that an order, Optia Ferris?”

“You bet your ass it is.”

It was the first honest smile Jeffrey had released in what felt like weeks. He gave her an exaggerated salute, and barely dodged a well-aimed smack intended for his ass. He was a big enough man to know when he was wrong, and he did need to eat and get some rest. The coming days would be long, and the only thing that would redeem them was if those two cadets woke up.



t was warm. And soft. Something fine and soft was tickling his cheek. It was familiar, wonderfully so, but his mind was too sluggish to determine just what it was. The soft warmth, pressing heavy against his right side was also firm and moving. Just a bit. Gentle, rythmic. His arm was around it, and that was good. It was really good. Love. He felt love, and his mind was trying to swim up through the undertow of oblivion. He loved. The heavy-soft warmth, firm and gentle movement made a faint sound, and that made the sensation of love increase. He needed to hold onto this, the feeling, and it would carry him up, unclouding his head. 

His eyelids fluttered, and indistinct blurry shapes filled up his visions, but in the foreground, he could see what was tickling his cheek. Long and chocolaty waves of very familiar hair. Yes, he loved this. He pressed his lips against those silky locks and remembered.

“Jared,” he whispered, so faint and so raspy, a voice unused for too long, the word barely formed and carried. A soft tiny whimper was the answer he got. He smiled at that. He loved the man in his arms. Of that, he was certain. The rest wasn’t so concrete. He didn’t recognize this place. He felt a weakness, a frailty in his body. The world felt like it was coated in gauze. Even his arm wrapped around Jared felt somehow stretched too thin. 

Muddled voices were talking in the distance. He couldn’t make out the words, or even the people speaking. The fog around him refused to lift. He was surprisingly okay with that, because Jared was shifting a little against him, making those soft sleepy sounds Jensen loved so much. He seemed to remember feeling very clearly the opening of Jared’s mind as he ascended into consciousness. He couldn’t feel that. Not with any distinction. Even those formerly clear impressions were unfocused and ill-defined. But Jared was waking, and he wanted to kiss him. 

So he did.

It was gentle, more of offered and received comfort. Loving and being loved. But Jared was still sleepy, and drew Jensen back down into unconsciousness with him.

They rested, but it was a light doze, as their minds sorted themselves out while allowing their bodies to recuperate further. They were marginally aware of the waking world around them, but it felt as though it existed on the other side of a veil. The low murmuring of voices reached their ears, their minds, but failed to pierce their understanding. Occasionally, they heard their names, knew that these people were talking about them. It wasn’t particularly concerning, not enough to focus on and decode. 

The concern of the others reached them first. These people were tired and worried. And waiting. To see them. The buoyancy of those emotions lifted them slowly back into the now. When they finally opened their eyes, the first thing they saw and understood was each other. And that was just fine. Some lazy kisses, some gentle squeezing that said, “I’m glad you're here, and I love you.”

The room had fallen silent, only the muted sounds of machines around them. Still holding tight to the other, they looked out and about, taking in the faces of friends and loved ones. The first thought was how very tired they looked. Without exception, they had dark rings around their eyes. They looked haggard, and much older than their years. Misha, Jager and Jeffrey looked as though they hadn’t shaved in days, eyes bloodshot, and bodies worn thin. Sasha’s normally immaculate appearance was now frayed, her hair mussed as though she had repeatedly run her hands through it. It saddened them, but was such a touching display of their friends’ concern and regard for them, that it stung their hearts. 

“Hi,” Jensen croaked, his voice rusty and grating with disuse. Jared was blinking owlishly at their audience. 

Sasha had her hand pressed against her mouth, as though to attempt to contain the swell of her emotions. She stood, walked slowly to the side of the bed, and pressed long kisses to each of their foreheads. In a way, it was slightly demeaning, as though they were children, but mostly it was powerfully touching. A display of deep feeling they had never seen from their mentor. She looked down at them, her eyes suspiciously moist. “Welcome back,” she said softly. “And don’t ever do that to us again.”

The two young men nodded. They were still wound tightly around each other, a very intimate pose, but they could not be bothered to be embarrassed by it. It didn’t appear to bother their friends too much.

Jeffrey stood up slowly, as if with great effort. Jensen and Jared had never seen him look so tired, so warn, or so old. He looked advanced in his age than when they last saw him. 

The thought caused Jared’s eyes to widen in concern. “How long were we out?” he asked.

“42 hours,” Jeffrey said. “Nearly two days. You moved for the first time about two hours ago, woke up briefly an hour ago, and now…” his voice trailed off for a moment. He cleared his throat and continued. “Now, you are awake, back with us.” He walked over to the same side of the bed Sasha had stood by. In a shockingly paternal gesture, he gently ran his hand down the side of each of their faces in turn. When his hand returned to his side, he asked, “How do you feel?”

The cadets thought for a moment before answering, “Shaky, weak,” Jensen answered.

“Kind of stretched,” Jared said. “Like we are spread too thin.”

Jeffrey nodded his understanding.

“Are you hungry?” Misha asked from the foot of their bed. The loud grumbling of their stomachs answered for them. He chuckled, and ordered an attendant to bring up a meal for the young men. 

A young woman they didn’t recognize entered.

“I’m Doctor Kristin Bell,” she said. “I’ve been overseeing your care. I need to examine you quickly, and make certain everything is in order.” She moved with efficiency, performing a few noninvasive tests, frequently consulting the various displays around their bed. “You are coming along nicely,” she said with a smile. “You will feel weak for a few days. You need to be sure to eat well and often, to combat the malnourishment from the past two days. We’ve sustained you intravenously, but nothing can substitute for real food. Do you have any questions?”

“Can we open the blinds?” Jared asked. “It’s very dark in here.”

“Sure,” Doctor Bell responded. “But you will want to close your eyes for a bit. The dramatic change in lighting could trigger a headache.”

They complied, and she tapped the com, the windows fading slowly from opaque to somewhat transparent. The light bled in through their eyelids, and the feeling of the sun on their skin elicited sighs of contentment. It took less than a minute for their eyes to adjust, and they opened them, taking in the blessedly warm light. They felt the warmth dance along their skin and they absorbed it. The room began to dim as the pair drew in more and more energy. For nearly ten minutes, even the artificial lights appeared to go out, the room in deep darkness. When they had their fill, the midday sun once again lit the room.

“Better?” Jager gently asked.

“For now,” Jared said. “We may need to log in some time with the generator.”

“I think we can arrange that,” Sasha laughed.

The door slid open and a staff member pushed in a hovercart overflowing with covered dishes. The smell was intoxicating. 

They sat up with some effort, Jager and Misha rushing to bolster them with pillows. The staffer brought two trays filled with food to them, and they tucked in with vigor. The noises of appreciating they made were borderline obscene and chuckles erupted around the room. Jared and Jensen were too hungry and preoccupied with their meal to be embarrassed. 

When they had finished and the dishes had been carted away, Jeffrey sat down on the edge of the bed, one leg tucked under him so he could see them both clearly.

“While you were out, I made a decision,” he said. “Everyone here had input on that decision, but the final choice was mine to make. Lyrean satellites recorded the entire battle, including a number of close up shots of the two of you in the thick of things. The armor concealed your identity, but everyone in the Republic has watched as the two of you collapsed. We did not list either of you on the injured lists for the Academy, but your absence has been noted. We could work overtime to try and hide your identities, or we can let everyone know that you two are in fact Gemini.

“There are a lot of negatives to doing that. Now, more than ever, you are the heroes of the Republic and a lot of attention and scrutiny comes with that. Fortunately, so long as you are here at the Academy, we can greatly mitigate that. There would be massive expectations placed on you, but I don’t think any greater than you place on yourselves. 

“The advantages, well there are a few, but for me, the single greatest is that the 15,000 plus cadets that you saved deserve to know who saved them. And you deserve to be recognized for what you have done. You deserve to have the worlds know that you saved them. You deserve their gratitude and thanks.”

Jared and Jensen were both blinking at him, trying to process everything they just heard.

“Satellites recorded the whole thing?” Jared asked quietly.

“Yes, son. It’s practically been on a constant loop across all media within an hour of when it happened. The official statement is that Gemini are responsible for the defense of the Academy. That Gemini saved us and by extension the Republic. Unless you wish it otherwise, I want to reveal Geminis’ true identity to the world.”

“When?” Jensen asked. “When do you want to do this?”

“Tomorrow,” Jeffrey explained. “In the afternoon. We have the memorial service in the morning, and after mess and a brief reprieve, I will do it mid to late afternoon.”

“A memorial service?” Jared asked, alarmed. “But you said we saved them!”

“You did, you saved nearly every person on this campus. The ones who died, there was absolutely nothing you could do for them. A small group of cadets didn’t take the alarm seriously, thought it was just another drill. They were wandering through the corridors when the spire fell. Thirteen were killed, crushed under the wreckage. Fourteen more were injured. They disobeyed protocol and paid the ultimate price for that. Nothing you could have done would have changed that. Do you hear me?”

“Yes, sir,” the cadets said, subdued. 

“Now, I need to know if you have any objections to revealing Gemini?”

They looked at each other, communicating silently. 

Jensen spoke first. “What about our families?”

“They have been summoned to Lyrea; they should be here by the end of the day. As to what impact the announcement will have on them, we will provide whatever assistance they may need afterward.”

“Our friends?” Jared asked. 

“One of the reasons I want to do this. They deserve to be here, with you, in this room. They deserve every chance they can get to be there for you both. If you decide this is something you want to do, I will bring the entire group in here, as long as they all agree to say nothing until the formal announcement.”

“Yeah, okay,” Jensen said. “We’ll do it.”

Jeffrey squeezed a knee of each young men in turn. He got up and quietly exited the room with a promise to return shortly.

Misha and Jager took the opportunity to plop down on the bed on either side of them. They roughhoused affectionately, their relief at having Jensen and Jared back among the living palpable. The mood became light and joyful, with a lot of reassuring, friendly touches. Misha was in the middle of explaining the happenings around the Academy since they’d been out when the door slid open revealing a smiling Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He stepped aside and a flood of smiling, teary faces poured in, overwhelming the young men with love and concern and happiness.

Jeffrey watched the frenetic display, the hugs and smacks and hair mussing. The sniffles and the laughter and the joking and the affirmations. In all, it was a damned good day.

Chapter Text

When the Founders set about transferring the Ark’s database into physical volumes, cataloging and securing the knowledge they had brought with them from Terra, they discovered a strange passage, published near the end of the fourth age. The author wrote of mankind among the stars, of an age of peace, which would end when a swarm, a plague would fall from the heavens, like glistening stars, to devour humanity. In the final passage, a powerful being with two faces would arise to shatter the plague, dragging the usurper out of the shadows into the light where judgment awaits, and heralding a new era. The most intriguing part, however, was this stanza “Standing on dark stars, he who is they will sing with the voices of the multitudes and call forth the cosmos itself to crush the destroyers. From the dust of the fallen, the dove will arise, to mend that which is broken. All will come to pass for the most ancient have bade it so.”

— Transcript of a lecture given by Pontifex Maximus Lucinda Correltel at the Historian Symposium in Casieth in 2347 AT


The Auditorium of the Academy sat glistening like a jewel at the edge of the campus, elevated above the rest of the buildings where it sat on a foothill on the northern rim of the valley. Massive windows, in narrow straight lines until they curve to meet along the center support beam of the roof, formed the walls. Internal supports of slender beams followed the lines of the windows, interconnecting in the middle, echoing the lines of the tree trunks and branches of the forest around the building, and evoking the gothic arches of the ancient Cathedrals on old Terra. It could seat the entire campus populace and their families. It was huge and beautiful, and blended with breathtaking splendor into the surrounding wilderness, offering some of the most stunning vistas in all of the Republic.

Justicar Psionica Jeffrey Dean Morgan sat on the dais, the winter white blanketed Academy buildings shining behind him. For as long as this structure had stood here, in the middle of that view, the Spire of the Academy anchored the panorama. Its absence now was shocking and a painful reminder of what was lost. 

The families of the deceased entered first, taking their seats in the front rows. The wounded and their families came next. The rest of the student body and faculty entered, interspersed with media and dignitaries. Morgan watched as a small group entered last. Like all military personnel present, they were in full dress. 

Where the utilities cadets wore every day embodied austerity and function, the dress uniform dispensed with the pockets, trading them for straight, severe lines, and elegant formality. As it was winter, all Adepts wore the heavy, long frock coat, the hem reaching below mid-calf. A squared shoulder, banded collar, and off-set closure that fastened just below the collar bone painted an intimidating silhouette. The only color that adorned the otherwise black uniform was the silk piping of the Adepts class that circled the color and ran all the way down the placket. 

Jared and Jensen stood in the middle, supported on either side by Tom Welling and Chris Kane. They had been awake now for a little more than a day, but still seemed shockingly frail. The doctor assured them all that they would return to their normal hale state with rest and proper nutrition. Even several visits to the training room generators hadn’t fully restored them, but they were slowly regaining their strength. 

No one had noticed their entrance, and as they sat in the back rows, they remained anonymous. It struck him that this could be the last time they could do anything incognito. No, he and the others would make certain that didn’t happen.

The murmur of the crowd faded to nothing as the commander of all Adepts stepped up to the lectern. 

“We have all lost much in the course of this terrible war. Unfathomable hatred has robbed us of our loved ones, of talent and creativity and of all the richness those lives lost should have brought to the good of us all. Instead, they died to ensure our survival. 

“This week, the alien attackers struck home. Right above where we all sit, an alien warship hovered, intent to destroy every cadet, every building, every last trace of the Academy, and destroy every Adept in the Republic from age 12 to 25. They sought to destroy the future of our race. 

“And they almost succeeded.

“We do not have words in our language to express our gratitude that they failed in that quest and humanity has another chance. Just as we cannot find words to express our sorrow that lives were lost senselessly. Visibly, we can easily see that they destroyed the proud and beautiful symbol of the Academy. What we cannot readily see is that in so doing, they robbed us all of 13 vibrant and promising young men and women. 

“To their families, I convey my deepest condolences for your loss. To their friends, I give you my deepest sympathies as you attempt to move on with gaping holes in your lives. To their fellow cadets, I give you my empathy, for like you, I have been diminished and deprived by this loss. 

“To the men and women of the Republic, I share your resolve to end this senseless war, secure all of our futures, and stem the flow of blood shed at hostile hands.

“I will open up the floor to allow friends, family, faculty to share their fondest memories of these young people, and to offer their sympathies.”

Initially, a few people who had contacted the Optia to ask permission to speak, lined up at the dais to offer words of comfort and remembrance. Then others from the audience added their voices. In all, the ceremony took around two hours. When the last words had been spoken, the families that had lost a loved one left first, a tradition of respect and deference, followed by the wounded, then dignitaries. 

Jensen and Jared noted Millis Gryon among the wounded. The young man’s once haughty demeanor had been replaced by an aura of brokenness. If they were to guess, he had probably been among the leaders of the group who persuaded the others to ignore the alarm. His hubris officially had a body count. The two young men could not help but feel badly for him. As he walked slowly past them, obviously not fully healed from his wounds, they smiled kindly at him when he looked over to them. With a wan smile, he nodded his acknowledgement with appreciation and understanding.

Last to arrive and last to leave, Jensen, Jared, and their friends exited slowly and quietly, making their way to the mess hall. The day before had been spent soaking up the overwhelming concern and support of their friends. The explanations of the events of the past month had taken a bit longer, but the revelation that they were in fact Gemini came with a decided lack of shock. 

Chris summed it up eloquently. “Like there were any other Adepts out there who could pull this shit off. Top it with you two having been missing in action while it all went down, we figured it was you. But it's good to hear it from the source, and not have to pretend that we didn’t suspect anything.”

Mike immediately asked for them to autograph his ass, an unsurprising request from their deranged friend, but a welcome comedic break.  

Today, with both of them still feeling shaky, the seven cadets surrounded them, always an available shoulder to lean on, a helping hand, and never leaving them alone for a second. Jensen and Jared both liked to roll their eyes at the overprotectiveness, but it felt good to be supported and loved. 

The mess hall was unusually quiet, far from silent, but not nearly as boisterous as normal. Even in their small group, conversation was subdued. The food was hot and filling, and it sat better in Jensen’s and Jared’s stomachs than they thought it would with the afternoon’s announcement looming over them all.

Despite a round of objections, they all went with the two cadets to the ruined section of the core. Tom and Erica were particularly outspoken against going there so soon, but Jared and Jensen were determined. The final leg of the journey they traveled in silence, the sound of their boots clacking on the hard floor the only noise in the empty corridor. None of them were prepared for the sight. 

The outer wall of windows was simply gone, an almost surgical cut on both sides. The most shocking devastation was to the ring of seminar rooms. It looked to be five of them gashed open, ugly wounds of twisted supports, exposed wires and conduits, the chilling image of seats where students had sat for decades worth of classes smashed, crushed together, folded over in gross caricatures of their normal unoccupied states. Students had probably been in those seats only minutes before the Spire crashed down on them. 

Nothing remained of the spire, save for a pile of broken rubble in the middle of the courtyard, the broken bones of the once proud structure heaped in a grotesque funeral mound over the foundation, the spot where it stood. And that was the most painful moment for Jensen and Jared. They could not help but remember the hours spent high in the tower, as their friendship with Misha developed, as they discovered a startling depth to their abilities they had never even imagined.

In that chamber, they unlocked a new world, a dimension that allowed them to save the Academy. But not the Spire. Not these classrooms. Not those thirteen cadets. The service had freed them from their feeling of responsibility for those students. They were given the same opportunity to find safety the rest of the student body had, but they chose to ignore it, thinking they knew better. It almost made them angry, but they felt certain no cadets would make that same mistake again. The lesson had been learned, and brutally so.

Jensen and Jared moved closer to each other, wrapping an arm around the other’s waist. As bad as the scene before them was, it could have--no, should have--been so much worse. All too easily, this entire valley could have been a smoking crater, an enormous open grave for the Academy and all of the people within her. 

Whatever they thought they might feel, a sense of pride or accomplishment or satisfaction, it wasn't at all the emotion of the moment. They were overwhelmed by a sense of relief. Of gratitude to whatever being or force or power that granted them the ability to save so many people. It was humbling and deeply moving.

They rested the sides of their heads together. Through it all, they still had each other.

And that was more than enough.



Nine first-class Decurion cadets sat in the northeast commons, a quiet, comfortable room off of the northeast corridor of the classroom core that ended with an exit in front of the upperclassmen dorms. They sat sprawled out on the large, worn leather couches surrounding a massive fireplace blazing away cozily in the early winter afternoon. All decked-out in their dress uniforms, they soaked up the lazy conversation and atmosphere. All but two of their heavy dress coats laid piled up on one of the armchairs by the door. Jared and Jensen remained wrapped up in theirs.

They kept assuring their friends that they would be good as new in a few days. It didn’t stop most of them from fussing. The two cadets just accepted the coddling as the gesture of caring that it was. It soothed their friends’ nerves and that’s good enough for them.

This reprieve, this time of solitude in their favorite place on the campus, was welcomed, and familiar. However, even now, it was tinged with foreboding. Tomorrow, would they be able to come here, just them, and be comfortable and at ease? How much differently would their lives be when the worlds knew that Gemini walked among them? 

For a few, brief moments, Jensen and Jared wished they had told the Justicar “no”. That they had chosen to remain hidden. But then they looked around and saw all of these amazing young men and women, who they could now fully share their lives with. With a shared sigh, they resolved themselves to what was coming, and to having to adjust accordingly. They may have to work harder for a little privacy. They may have to deal with more attention than they wanted or were comfortable with. Fortunately, they had some amazing friends to help them through it all.

The door slid open and nine heads lazily lolled around to view the newcomers. Misha, Jager and Sasha strolled in. Misha dropped heavily beside Jensen and Jager flopped down just as gracelessly next to Jared. This had become their “de facto” positions. It amused the two younger men to no end that they had appointed themselves as bodyguards. Every time they did it, Jared thought it would only be matter of time before Tom, Chris, Misha and Jager came to blows to fight for the positions. 

“You came all this way to slouch with the junior officers?” Jensen asked with a shit-eating grin.

“Oh yeah,” Misha answered. “We always wanted to hang with the cool kids. Actually, we came to get you. The Justicar wants you to have one more checkup before this afternoon and then you have to put on your armor and we have to get you in position before the crowds see you.”

The two young men sighed. They knew this was going to happen. The checkup would yield nothing more than “rest, eat well and drink lots of fluids,” but if the Justicar wanted it, he would most assuredly get it. The two older officers pulled the younger ones to their feet.

“Remember, Optia Ferris has special seats set aside for all of you,” Jared said to the remaining group.

“We know, Jay,” Erica said with amusement. “You’ve told us four times already.” 

“Yeah, yeah. I just know you bums are going to lay about here, fall asleep, run to the auditorium late and slurk into the back,” Jensen chided her.

“We’ll be front and center, chief,” Chris mock saluted.

The four men walked out of the room, the door closing behind them, and Jared and Jensen couldn’t help but think that would be the last time they get to be just Jared and Jensen.



The auditorium was full for the second time that day, the moods drastically different. The crowd consisted of most of the same people, with the addition of a considerably larger contingent from the media. The invitation said only that the Justicar Psionica would give a public address regarding the attack on the Academy. Considering the lack of official statements about the attack, Jeffrey had no doubt the press would flock to the meeting.

He walked up the steps of the dais, and turned, taking in the whole of the audience before moving to speak.

“The Academy Psionica was established to teach Adepts how to deal with and use their abilities to the fullest, and to live comfortably in society while using those talents for the greater good. For generations, this institution has fulfilled that purpose, and has a proud legacy of service to the Republic. These halls have seen the rise of some of the greatest minds and servants in history. These extraordinary men and women are our heritage, and to them, we owe a debt of great thanks.

“Two decades ago, the war came upon us all. When the psionic defense became our greatest hope in preserving our species, my predecessor, in a move that reflected the heart of the Psionic Ministry and this academy, vowed that every graduate would serve in that defense. That all of PsiMin would give our all to protect the Republic. In return, she asked that all Adepts remain at the Academy until the age of 25, that they would receive the finest and most complete training we could provide them. That by our efforts, every cadet would leave here with as great a chance of not only surviving the war, but the ability cope, as much as humanly possible with all they would experience.

“What was once the source from where so many of the Republic’s resources came has been transformed into a facility to produce our defense. We all share that sorrow, but PsiMin will continue to do everything in our power to secure the future of us all.

“Four days ago, in a series of events that will plague our nightmares, a silicate warship of unknown design breached the wall that has kept all of the interior worlds safe from attack. I watched as that ship pierced the very sky above us right now. I watched as the greatest threat humanity has ever known hovered above the very institution that has so far vouchsafed the continued survival of our species, with only one purpose: to destroy a full generation of Adepts, and eliminate the future for us all.

“I watched, as two armor-clad figures stood, impossibly small, between them and their goal. I watched as those two men, with no hope of their own survival but fueled by the small hope of the survival of others, held back the darkness.

“You have seen the images. You have watched the battle they fought, a clash so seemingly one-sided that even knowing the outcome makes those images difficult to watch. I want to try to impart to all of you, gathered here, the magnitude of that conflict.”

With a wave of his hand, the Auditorium’s hologrid activated. The audible gasp of the crowd echoed through the massive room as a life-size, three-dimensional image of the alien warship loomed over their heads. The entirety of the battle, recreated from the logs of the campus sensors and simulated in holovid, played out precisely as it did that morning. The two armored figures stood there, surrounded by five more armored officers, and fought back.

Rewatching it like this brought back the emotions of that morning. Jeffrey clearly remembered the terror, the hopelessness, and the sorrow. As the projection continued on to the valiant defense, ticking through each step of the fight, he saw so many things he missed. He looked over to see the awestruck horror on Misha’s, Jargon’s, Sasha’s and Samantha’s faces. He saw the group of Jared’s and Jensen’s friends, pale and shaking as they experienced first-hand what their friends had gone through.

The first cannon blasts, replicated with frightening accuracy by the projector and audio system, caused the audience to flinch, some to duck. The crashing of the ship into the deflector caused most to cower. The recording of the campus computer indicating the impending reactor overload caused gasps and shrieks throughout the large room. Jeffrey had not seen the final phase of the combat without his visor. Now, he could see the magnificence of the huge filaments flowing into and around the two men. They looked like celestial beings from ancient myths, the embodiment of power.

The final moments of the fight, the unfathomable outpouring of energy, and then the voices of Gemini saying “stop,” had jaws dropping through the Auditorium. The kinetic blast from the two caused a distinct ripple through the air, and then, the ship exploded. 

The room erupted in cries and shouts of disbelief. The cacophony showed no signs of abating until the moment Gemini collapsed, falling boneless and seemingly in slow motion. Jeffrey heard sobs, and whispers. A heavy silence descended across the crowd. The image faded away, as the last of the crystalline shards that had been the ship fell from the sky. He retook the dais.

“What the holovid could not show you, what only Gemini could know was that they felt the minds and life energies of every last silicate on that vessel. For a horrible, life-changing moment, they saw and felt tens of thousands of sentient life forms. Mere seconds after this revelation, they had to destroy that ship and every being on it. 

“As they marshaled every milligram of their strength, they knew they were seconds from becoming mass murderers. They knew the price to defend us would be more blood on their hands than they could ever hope to wash off. For almost everyone in this room, the burden of that knowledge would crush you, or drive you mad. These two men took on their shoulders that sacrifice without flinching. They killed over 50,000 aliens, living and thinking beings, and saved everyone on this planet.

“Not three weeks before, they single-handedly healed almost 33,000 men and women on Utopia Planitia, transforming what could have been our greatest tragedy into a moment of glorious perseverance. These are the deeds of heroes.

“Since the events of Utopia Planitia, the name Gemini has been circulating, blanketed in mystery. Even before the Academy battle, most of you had seen images of two men in suits with that name attached to them. I will tell you now, they were not Gemini.

“Why the deception? Why the mystery? Protection. Why would such powerful individuals need protection? Because part of the burden of the hero is the attention it draws to him or her. Life under the constant scrutiny of billions of people is crushing and cruel, even when the intentions of those adoring multitudes are only good. 

“I sought to protect them. To allow them, as much as possible, to live normal lives. After the events of this week, I had to review that position. The secrecy around Gemini would forever stand between them and the gratitude and recognition they deserve. It forced them to remain alone when wounded, their friends and family unknowing of their condition. 

“The choice was much more difficult than you might believe. As I said at the beginning, one of the tenets of the Academy was that no Adept will serve in a military capacity until they have reached the age of 25. This was not an arbitrary rule, and one we have not violated once since the war started.

“I wanted to protect Gemini for many reasons, but first and foremost, I wanted to protect them from entering the war before they turned 25.”

Gasps filled the hall, taking several moments before Morgan could restore order.

“Gemini are cadets, here in this Academy. They possess abilities so far beyond what we know, we have no means of measuring them. I wanted to protect them because they are men and not weapons. Because never before have we as a race been as tempted to forget the people behind the power. If we lose sight of that, then the aliens have won, because we will have lost our humanity. 

“So why allow them to serve in the field now? Why reveal their identities now? The two operations in which they have served were prompted by extraordinary circumstances of extraordinary need. Without their intervention, the results would have been catastrophic. They specifically asked for both assignments because they knew they could either turn the tide, or if they failed they would never see their 25th birthdays. 

“I stand by the principle that they are not ready for a field commission, but in times of great need, when they can truly make a difference, I will work with and for them, but always see that they return here. We will continue to teach them to master their exceptional talents. We will continue to guide them and foster in them all they will need to survive the demands placed on them. 

“In my tenure at PsiMin, I have never known two men of such singular quality of character, such strength of conviction, such conscience. I am privileged to know and work with them, and proud to call them friends. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Gemini.”

Heads spun around as the back doors opened and two tall figures in head-to-toe armor walked the aisle to the dais. The dark gray of the metal encasing their bodies highlighted every crease of their musculature, as if liquid metal had been poured over them like a statue. The capes had changed hue: one royal blue and the other crimson red. The masks revealed nothing of their identity, but the mirrored “T” reflected the glorious winter sky flawlessly, making it appear that the heavens were encased in their helmets. 

They never faltered in step, or turned their eyes away from their commander. They stood before him, at attention and saluting. The Justicar saluted back, and the two stood at parade rest. At his signal, they turned to face the audience. 

“Now,” Morgan said quietly. They focused their eyes on the command sequence in their visors, and the helmets unfolded and retracted uncovering their entire heads.

“Decurions Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. These two men are your heroes. They are Gemini.”

The ovation shook the floors of the auditorium.